It’s been nearly two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a sharp drop in ad spend, a dramatic pivot in messaging, and an industry-wide re-imagining of what it means to plan ad campaigns for the future. While some of the traditional mile markers throughout the year – the holiday season, the Super Bowl – have carried on, campaigns have been challenged in setting the right tone, and having the right focus, for a hard-to-forecast moment.

The Super Bowl is a great example of how the industry has had to adapt. Today, brands are focusing on the best ways to adapt to current trends, including e-commerce and the need for first-party data. So, in 2022, what does the Super Bowl ad landscape look like? What industries and brands are ready to make a big advertising push? Let’s look at which brands are in the game this year, which are out, and what this means for the state of the ad industry.

You’ll see fewer consumer packaged goods ads

This year we’re seeing some leading CPGs returning or making their Super Bowl debuts. But more significantly, as we’re seeing CPGs push more ad spend toward digital performance channels (search, video, social, email, etc.), some prominent category mainstays, including Procter & Gamble’s Tide brand, Mars Wrigley (M&Ms), and Kraft Heinz – all of which advertised last year – have all chosen to sit out the game.

For many CPGs, focusing more on digital than broadcast feels like a reasonable bet. Early in the pandemic, consumers became accustomed to foregoing routine trips to stores and ordering the same products online for delivery. Those habits have stuck – consumers rarely leave convenience behind willingly. For CPG brands, there are some clear benefits to the normalization of online grocery shopping. Digital allows for more transparency and accountability than broadcast, when it comes to targeting and measuring campaigns. Major CPGs taking a pass on a $6.5million, 30-second Super Bowl ad (the going rate this year) are in line with the trend of reducing broadcast spend and instead targeting the consumer’s online buying journey.

The CPGs who do run ads will push online integrations

CPGs like Frito-Lay, AB InBev, and Colgate-Palmolive – who are collecting first-party data via contests and collaborations, as well as rebrandings, – do see the value in being in the broadcast, but for a different reason than in prior years. Those in the category that advertise during the game are using those spots as invitations to online experiences – not only to guide consumers down the buying path, but to engage directly with consumers so they can collect valuable first-party data in advance of the 2023 third-party cookie deprecation. A Super Bowl spot promises peak engagement in a multi-device environment where an ever-growing share of consumers watch TV with mobile or tablet in hand. In fact, mobile is where CPGs are placing 70% of their digital ad spend. Enticing the consumer to gravitate toward that second screen could involve, for example, a promotion that drives viewers to a dedicated microsite that can collect interest, behavioral, or registration/form data. Doing the most with the greatest volume possible of first-party data is an essential piece of advertising strategy in a future full of unanswered questions about identity.

A return to (some) normalcy

With the current Omicron wave, disruption is still apparent, and consumers remain cautious with their spending. But the desire for normalcy is strong. Vaccinations are proceeding, boosters are available, and once-tight public health restrictions are being loosened in many states and regions. Industries which hinge on real-life experiences rather than goods (travel), that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic are anticipating a comeback. Expedia is not only advertising during the Super Bowl itself – it also bought a pre-game spot for its subsidiary Vrbo.

We should also expect a return to messaging that feels like the norm for the Super Bowl – more humor and more elaborate, outlandish, high-value production. While the strange pandemic Super Bowl of 2021 may have been a little surprising in its usual embrace of light humor and celebrity appearances, this year, brands are sure to take advantage of consumers’ growing optimism and the production houses to which they had limited access under strict COVID mandates.

The Super Bowl always sets a tone for advertising over the following months but trends that inform that tone are already surfacing. Consumers are increasingly confident, and increasingly digital. The ad experiences we see in this year’s game will reflect that, and, when it comes to CPGs, may provide signs of how the category will want to interact with consumers not just this year, but for years to come in what will surely be a different era than the one we were living in prior to 2020.