NEW YORK — It's showtime.
The moment that two teams and dozens of advertisers have been counting down to for months has finally arrived: Super Bowl 51 at the NRG Stadium in Houston.
As the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots square off on the field, advertisers will duke it out for the attention of more than 110 million people expected to tune in on Sunday. At around $5 million for a 30 second spot, it's a pricey gamble for some.
This year, advertisers are hoping the Super Bowl can bridge the divisive political climate that's roiled the nation since President Donald Trump took office. An NFL ad airing between the third and fourth quarter break voices what all advertisers hope the Super Bowl becomes: a place where Americans can come together.
"Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there's more that unites us," a voiceover by Forest Whitaker states over scenes of workers prepping a football field and shots of football games.
Many viewers like Mikayla Jendrusch in San Antonio, Texas, are just looking to be entertained.
"The ads are my favorite part of the whole event," the college student said. "Even though they're posted online ahead of time, I still love waiting to watch them live."
Ad experts say they expect a tamer Super Bowl this year, with more of a focus on light humor and fewer ads trying to shock or pour on the sex appeal and slapstick.
"This is the big united game and you don't' have a big united audience right now. It's challenging," said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of New York ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein.
But there will still be some surprises. Snickers is airing its ad live, and Hyundai is shooting its ad on the fly during the game. Other advertisers like Chrysler and Coca-Cola have stayed mum on their air plans. Here's a look at some ads expected to be standouts.
Seven automakers are advertising during the game — nine if you count the pregame and postgame. Mercedes-Benz enlisted the Coen brothers and Peter Fonda to update Easy Rider for its ad for its AMG Roadster. Kia showcases the fuel efficiency of the 2017 Niro crossover in an ad showing Melissa McCarthy unsuccessfully joining social movements trying to save the whales, ice caps and rhinos. And Honda makes the yearbook photos of nine celebrities ranging from Tina Fey to Viola Davis talk about "The Power of Dreams," Honda's ad slogan.
Anheuser-Busch, one of the largest Super Bowl advertisers, is making a retro appeal with three of its spots. Its ad for Michelob Ultrauses the theme song for "Cheers," which ran from 1982 to 1993. In the ad, the place "where everybody knows your name" is a gym where people work out together rather than a bar.
Its ad for its Busch brand 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. And Bud Light brings back Spuds MacKenzie, its bull terrier spokesdog from the 1980s, as a ghost encouraging a Bud Light drinker to go out with his friends instead of staying in.
While there are fewer crotch jokes and less slapstick humor this year than in years past, some advertisers are taking an offbeat approach to humor. Mr. Clean promotes its cleaning product by making its animated mascot seem sexy, dancing around in tight white pants as he cleans. Febreze attempts to honor the halftime bathroom break in its ad suggesting people who use the bathroom during halftime also use its product. And Squarespace enlists John Malkovich to chide someone else who has the domain name johnmalkovich.com.