Since debuting its first Super Bowl ad 12 years ago, San Antonio-based grocery chain H-E-B has often featured celebrities with Texas connections, from former Dallas Cowboys Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith to TV star Eva Longoria and singer-songwriter Jack Ingram.
This year, H-E-B is going in a different direction with its 60-second spot, which will air between the game's third and fourth quarters.
The ad features a scruffy man stranded on a desert island, alone and helpless. The tide changes when a stray cooler fully loaded with H-E-B brand products washes ashore, turning his bleak situation into a cause for celebration.
"We've done a variety of different concepts over the years, some with humor, some with music, some Texas based -- we always try to do something a little different since it's the Super Bowl," said Cory Basso, H-E-B's group vice president of marketing and advertising. "This one we just wanted a big surprise factor. I think when you start watching it you'd never in a million years think it's an H-E-B ad."
Instead, Basso is betting viewers will think they're seeing a beer ad. "Then half-way through he finds the Texas products, and you realize it's H-E-B."
The ad, which ends with a voiceover by Ingram, will run during a block typically set aside for regional companies. H-E-B declined to say how much it is paying to run the spot, and CBS affiliates did not disclose how much they're charging to broadcast regional ads. The ads will air only in Texas.
"We're just buying the markets we're in, which makes it a very affordable way to be on the biggest TV event of the year," Basso said. "This makes it possible to do a 60-second ad instead of a 30-second one."
Last year, H-E-B’s Super Bowl ad reached 15 million views on social media platforms, and H-E-B is aiming for 30 million this year, Basso said.
Nationwide, the Super Bowl remains advertising’s biggest mass-market showcase - and one of the last remaining ones in an age of personalized ads targeted to individual interests based on data collected by Facebook, Google and other tech giants. Digital ads are expected to make up nearly 60 percent of ad spending by 2020, according to eMarketer, up from about 50 percent in 2018.
Yet a 30-second Super Bowl ad can cost more than $5 million. More than 100 million people in the U.S. are expected to tune in to Sunday’s game on CBS.
Brands advertising on Sunday's telecast, Advertising Age says, include Anheuser-Busch, Audi, Olay, Burger King and Doritos.
One Austin-based company has announced a Super Bowl ad: Bumble, the female-focused dating app, will kick off a marketing campaign with tennis champion Serena Williams with a spot during the first half.
The campaign, titled "The Ball is in Her Court," is designed to empower women to make the first move in dating, friendship and business. In the ad, Williams urges women not to wait for good things to happen, but to make things happen.
"Partnering with Serena Williams has been a dream of mine since we launched Bumble as she is one of the most inspiring women in history and a shining example of someone making the first move in all facets of her life," Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd said in a written statement.
Report: Austin is strongest retail market in Texas
The biggest challenge for retailers looking to expand in Central Texas remains finding a place to do it.
The region continues to lead the state, and much of the nation, when it comes to retail occupancy, according to new figures from Weitzman, a commercial real estate firm with offices across Texas.
At the end of 2018, retail occupancy in the Austin area was a red hot 95.8 percent. That's in spite of a number of high-profile closures in the area, including four Sears anchor stores. Those stores, each totaling between 172,000 and 185,000 square feet, now represent the largest single source of vacancy in the Austin area, the report said.
In addition, Austin saw three metro-area locations of Toys R Us and one Babies R Us shut down, as well as the closure of more than a dozen Mattress Firm locations.
But even with that space opening up, the market remains extremely tight because of a big slow down in new construction, according to Weitzman's Britt Morrison, senior vice president in the firm's Austin office.
In 2018, the market added about 670,000 square feet of retail space in new and expanded projects. By comparison, during the Austin building boom in 2007, builders added a whopping 4.2 million square feet of space.
Compounding the issue is a lack of large scale retail projects in the development pipeline, Morrison said.
The end result is all retailers, from chains to local businesses to restaurants, are struggling to find the space they need, he said.
"The historical driver for growth was primarily H-E-B, and they're just not doing anything new right now," Morrison said. "When H-E-B isn't doing anything there's no place for retail to follow. That's why you're seeing growth being pushed out to Kyle, Buda, Pflugerville and Cedar Park."
In other words, there are two options: "You look outside of Austin or you patiently wait," Morrison said. "You used to have restaurants come into the market and say 'We need to have four stores open in the next 12 months.' Now they make due with two or three stores over two or three years. They'll wait out the right opportunity."