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Super Bowl Notes: Advertisers more cautious with their audience

Super Bowl Notes: Advertisers more cautious with their audience

NEW YORK -- Super Bowl advertisers are treading carefully this year to avoid alienating customers as a divisive political climate takes some of the buzz away from what is usually the biggest spectacle on TV.

Ad critic Barbara Lippert says that while "people need an escape," like the Super Bowl, this year's matchup on the field feels "so much less important than what's going on politically."

To get the attention back, some advertisers are turning to nostalgia, celebrities and marketing stunts. P&G is sexing up Mr. Clean, Honda is featuring nine celebrities and Snickers is running a live ad.

Others are touching on social issues, without being too blunt about it. Budweiser won the pre-game buzz with a sweeping cinematic ad showcasing founder Adolphus Busch's 1857 immigration from Germany to St. Louis. Although it has been in the works since May , the ad felt topical, as it was released online just days after President Donald Trump's travel ban against people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The ad got more than 8 million views on YouTube in just four days.

Although many brands released ads online ahead of time, there will still be surprises during Fox's Super Bowl broadcast Sunday. At $5 million for a 30-second spot, and an expected U.S. audience of more than 110 million, the pressure is on.

Tiptoeing around politics
Audi's spot addresses gender equality as a man muses about his daughter receiving equal pay as men one day.

Building supplies retailer 84 Lumber had to revise its original ad because a scene featuring a border wall was deemed too controversial by Fox. The new ad shows a Mexican woman and her daughter making a trip by foot across Mexico. The ad's ending will be revealed at halftime athttp://journey84.com ; the website suggests excised footage will be shown.

And Kia attempts a humorous approach. In an ad for the Niro car, Melissa McCarthy takes on political causes like saving whales, ice caps and trees, each time to disastrous effect. The message: "It's hard to be an eco-warrior, but it's easy to drive like one" with a fuel-efficient Niro.

Though advertisers are being extra careful, taking on any sort of political topic might backfire, says Mark DiMassimo, CEO of ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein. Against the backdrop of an "emboldened, enraged or traumatized audience," he says, themes that might have been innocuous in the past "seem more strident and jarring this year."

Stuffed with celebrities
In turbulent times, brands can count on celebrities to ensure goodwill among consumers.

And why use one celebrity when you can have many? In Honda's ad , the high-school yearbook photos of Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Viola Davis, Missy Elliott, Tina Fey, Magic Johnson, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee and Robert Redford come to life with special effects. The animations encourage people to follow their dreams in a nod to Honda's longtime slogan, "The Power of Dreams."

Website hosting company Squarespace shows an intense John Malkovich berating the owner of johnmalkovich.com domain name.

Justin Bieber shows off dance moves to tout T-Mobile cellphone offerings. For the baby boomer crowd, Mercedes-Benz shows a biker gang being amazed by Peter Fonda's AMG GT roadster to the tune of Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild."

"The proliferation of athletes and more personalities is a reflection of not taking too much risk," says Kelly O'Keefe from Virginia Commonwealth University's advertising graduate program. "When in doubt get a personality."

Blast from the past
Anheuser-Busch joins Mercedes-Benz in trying to reach consumers with nostalgia. The brewer's ad shows a mountain man opening a can of Busch beer to the sound of "Buschhhhh." It's a nod to the brand's ad campaign, introduced in 1978, which lasted for decades.

Meanwhile, Bud Light is bringing back the ghost of its 1980s spokesdog Spuds Mackenzie -- literally. In its ad, the dog appears as a ghost dangling in the air, urging a Bud Light drinker to go out and join his friends, like the ghosts in the holiday classic "A Christmas Carol."

And P&G sexes up its Mr. Clean mascot, introduced as an animated character in 1958. In the new ad , he distracts a woman as he cleans her kitchen.

"Emotions are the secret sauce of getting people to do things, and nostalgia is a great reason for people to pay attention," says Devra Prywes of video analytics firm Unruly.

Here's to health
After 10 years, Frito-Lay has retired its "Crash the Super Bowl" campaign for Doritos. Those ads, created by consumers, were usually filled with slapstick humor.

Taking its place? A healthier approach. PepsiCo is featuring its new bottled water called LifeWTR and its sugar-free soft drink, Pepsi Zero Sugar. Bai Brands investor Justin Timberlake helps promote the company's antioxidant-infused drinks. And one of Wonderful Co.'s 15-second ads promotes the health benefits of its pistachios.

Avocados from Mexico is focusing on its "healthy fats" in a humorous ad showing a secret society subliminally influenced by Jon Lovitz to chow down on guacamole.

Surprises
The biggest buzz may come from what hasn't been revealed ahead of time.

Snickers' ad with Adam Driver and a "Wild West" theme will be performed live during the third quarter.

Hyundai tapped "Deepwater Horizon" director Peter Berg to shoot an ad during the game itself for airing right after the game ends.

Chrysler, long known for its surprise two-minute ads starring celebrities like Eminem and Clint Eastwood, won't even say whether it's advertising this year. Coca-Cola says it bought two spots, but it's keeping the topic a mystery.

"Ultimately, the advertiser who gives us sweet relief without that aftertaste is going to win," DiMassimo says. "Something simple, delightful and cheerful."

NFL Notes: Bills' Anquan Boldin announces retirement

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AP Images

NFL Notes: Bills' Anquan Boldin announces retirement

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Anquan Boldin says a violent, racially charged protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, caused him to re-assess his priorities and led to the Buffalo Bills receiver's decision to retire after 14 NFL seasons.

In interview Monday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Boldin said he's "uncomfortable" with how divided the nation is and wants to dedicate his entire focus to humanitarian and criminal justice work.

Boldin spoke a day after abruptly informing the Bills he was retiring a little under two weeks after signing a one-year contract. Saying it wasn't a "fly-by-night decision," Boldin says he gradually came to the realization that his off-the-field work outweighed football.

The NFL's 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Boldin oversees the South Florida-based Q81 Foundation, which offers educational support for underprivileged children. He has become an advocate for criminal justice reform since his cousin was killed by a plain-clothes police officer along the side of a Florida highway in October 2015.

Broncos: Siemian reportedly wins starting QB job
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- A person with knowledge of the decision has told The Associated Press that Trevor Siemian will be named the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback after beating out Paxton Lynch.

The person requested anonymity to speak candidly prior to coach Vance Joseph's news conference at 3:15 p.m. EDT Monday in which he's expected to make if official.

Siemian, a 2015 seventh-round draft pick out of Northwestern who won the starting job last year when he beat out veteran Mark Sanchez, quickly surged ahead of Lynch, a first-rounder in 2016 from Memphis, when training camp opened.

Lynch showed more comfort with the new scheme and coaching staff but still proved inadequate at decoding defenses while Siemian was steady and solid, if unspectacular.

Jets: Lee, Williams cleared of conduct violations
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets players Darron Lee and Leonard Williams have been cleared by the NFL of any violations of the league's personal conduct policy following a review of an incident at a musical festival in New York in June.

In a moment caught on video and splashed across social media, Williams stepped in front of Lee , who had an argument with a girlfriend, according to coach Todd Bowles. Williams then briefly lifted and forcibly removed his teammate from a potential altercation.

Lee was not arrested or charged with anything resulting from the situation, and he wasn't disciplined by the Jets.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Monday that the league "concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that there was a violation of the personal conduct policy."

ESPN first reported the NFL's decision.

Eagles-Dolphins practice 10 observations: Alshon Jeffery's big day

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USA Today Images

Eagles-Dolphins practice 10 observations: Alshon Jeffery's big day

Training camp is technically over, but the Dolphins are in town for two joint practices before Thursday's preseason game at the Linc.

The Eagles and Dolphins held a lengthy pre-solar eclipse practice under the full power of the sun on Monday morning into the afternoon.

Here are 10 observations from the joint session:

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks left early on Monday. No word about Hicks yet, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Graham suffered a strained tricep that wasn't considered serious. With Graham inside, rookie Derek Barnett took first-team reps at left defensive end. And second-year player Joe Walker filled in for Hicks because Najee Goode wasn't practicing, either.

Barnett returned to practice on Monday after missing Sunday with what Doug Pederson called a "lower-body injury."

2. Plenty of notable folks came out to watch practice today: Charles Barkley, Marvin Harrison, Freddie Mitchell, Stephen Tulloch.

Tulloch, who spent last season with the Eagles, retired this offseason. He's enjoying his retirement but was happy to check out practice on Monday. He owes a lot to Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Dolphins DC Matt Burke, the latter of whom was with Tulloch in Tennessee and Detroit also.

3. Carson Wentz got a ton of reps on Monday because the Dolphins didn't come all the way here to practice against themselves. He went to Alshon Jeffery a ton on Monday during 11-on-11s and 7-on-7s. Jeffery had one of his best days of the summer.

"He's very physical," Byron Maxwell said of Alshon Jeffery. "Getting off the line, you definitely need that too. Philadelphia, they've got three different receivers that can do different things. You've got [Torrey Smith] that can take you deep. Jeffery is a guy that can use his body well."

The best ball Wentz threw all day, though, came on a deep pass to Torrey Smith, who beat old friend Maxwell for a touchdown.

A couple plays later, Wentz hit Jeffery for a touchdown after Maxwell was beaten again. On that one, it looked like Maxwell might have expected safety help that never came.

4. Maxwell and Kiko Alonso had rough returns to their old practice fields. Maxwell was beaten for three touchdowns, two to Smith and one to Jeffery, while Alonso was beaten on a quick pass to Darren Sproles near the goal line.

5. If you were hoping to hear about fights or chippy play between the two teams on Monday, it didn't really happen. The closest it got was when Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Stills jawed a little bit after a completed pass to Stills from Jay Cutler. Nothing came of it. Although, Jenkins is the odds-on favorite to get in a fight from the Eagles' defensive players. For the offense, Jason Kelce gets the nod.

6. Cutler had a pretty good day against the Eagles' defense. After practice, the quarterback who the Dolphins lured out of retirement said he feels pretty rested after joining the team late, looked like it. He was whizzing footballs into his receivers. He kept finding Jarvis Landry in the end zone during red zone work.

7. The Eagles ran a fake field goal on Monday! Donnie Jones took the snap from Jon Dorenbos and rolled right before hitting Brent Celek. It worked!

8. Nick Foles has looked really good since coming back from his elbow injury. It's almost shocking how much better than Matt McGloin he is. On Monday, he kept connecting with Trey Burton. That could be something to watch if Foles ever plays in a game this season.

9. Nelson Agholor made a great catch with a Dolphins defender blanketing him. It was probably the catch of the day.

10. Wentz's arm isn't showing any signs of fatigue after a long summer. He absolutely threw a rocket to Mack Hollins. The laser of a throw made a loud sound as it collided with Hollins, who went to the ground to catch it. It was a perfect throw where only Hollins could get it.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Yes, Kiko Alonso was of course rocking a crop top on Monday.