While the Eagles and Patriots still have to play their football game on Sunday in Minneapolis, the other annual show on the NFL’s biggest night is, of course, the commercials, which are filmed, edited, and ready to roll during the game. Some already are available to watch online, if you are the kind of person who cannot wait to see advertisements, and if you are that kind of person, do ask yourself where everything went wrong.
Reaction, as always, will be swift. Some company will get raves for a goofy spot, maybe featuring a puppy, that hits all the right notes. Another ad will be poignant and memorable. Peyton Manning will have been there to try to sell us something in a commercial that’s pretty good, but will annoy everyone by its millionth airing in mid-March. Then there will be the big loser of the night, a commercial that misses badly with a shoddy attempt at humor while also serving to confuse the audience about what is being advertised.
But does it matter?
Last year, two of the four worst Super Bowl ads, as rated by USA Today’s “Ad Meter,” the definitive annual ranking, were spots for World of Tanks, a massively multiplayer online game about the Cleveland Brow—no, wait, it’s actually a game where players have battles with tanks. The conceit of the ads was that they posed as ads for faux reality shows “Teensy House Buyers” and “Real Awful Moms,” only to have a tank come rolling in and destroy everything.
The following month, the CEO of World of Tanks maker Wargaming, Victor Kislyi, told Polygon, “It turned into – I wouldn’t call it a disaster, but we hit the wall at some point.”
That, however, was not about the terrible commercials. Kislyi was speaking about World of Tanks itself, as there had been complaints from players about an update to the game, and he was trying to take responsibility for what was going on at his company.
Things seem to be going pretty well a year later, too. As reported by VentureBeat, Wargaming last month announced a partnership “with virtual reality venture fund VRTech to form a location-based VR company called Neurogaming,” a name that sounds not at all creepy as hell for a company “based in Nicosia, Cyprus with an additional development branch in Moscow.” Anyway, their plan is to develop a location-based virtual reality version of World of Tanks.
Having very little knowledge of developments in the gaming world since MarioKart 64, that all reads like gibberish, but the meaning is crystal clear: the makers of a very successful video game, who already have made loads of money off that video game, plan to make even more money off the next, more technologically-advanced video game, and also they’re doing software development in Russia with business headquarters in Cyprus, which is not sketchy in any way, shape, or form, no sir!
Nothing about any of this would suggest that putting 30 seconds of garbage on American television during the most-watched program of the year has had any ill effect on Wargaming. But maybe, you say, the USA Today Ad Meter is biased against video games, as the other two of the four worst Super Bowl ads last year also were promoting similar products.
The lowest-rated non-game ad last year belonged to KFC, a subsidiary of YUM! Brands. In the week after Super Bowl LI, stock prices for YUM! went up $1.70, and YUM! beat earnings expectations in each of the first three quarters of 2017.
Would KFC have driven more profits for YUM! had it not turned to Rob Riggle for a Super Bowl ad? We can never answer that question, but if you watch the game on Sunday, don’t be afraid to head to the kitchen for more wings during the commercial breaks, because you won’t miss anything – and even if you do, you can find the ads online, because, again, that is a thing.