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Super Bowl ads show signs of maturity

In one ad, released last week, spokeswoman Danica Patrick, a racecar driver, wears a muscle suit as she runs down the street with a growing crowd of other muscular people. The crowd heads for a spray tanning business owned by a woman, who says: "It's go time."

SEX DOESN'T SELL?

Unilever also is changing its approach. The company's Axe body spray typically plays up sex, including last year's Super Bowl ad that showed a bikini-clad woman being rescued from drowning by a hunky man.

The ad, which has 5.8 million views on YouTube.com after a year, ranked in the bottom 10 ads on USA Today's Ad Meter.

This year, to introduce its "Peace" fragrance, Axe's ad depicts several seemingly militaristic scenes in different countries that end up with couples embracing. The ad, which already has 3.5 million views on YouTube, says: "Make Love Not War."

Matthew McCarthy, Axe senior director of brand development, says that even though the ad is more sophisticated than previous efforts. "We're doing something that surprises people," he says.

PLAYING THE CELEBRITY GAME

The ad for Wonderful Pistachios also might surprise watchers. Experts say when the nut brand, which is owned by Roll International, debuted at last year's Super Bowl, it made a typical rookie mistake: Jumping on a fad.

The ad featured Psy, a one-hit wonder from Korea whose single "Gangnam Style" and an accompanying dance were smash hits at the time. But the ad a¿¿ like Psy a¿¿ was quickly forgotten. The ad ranked 28 out of 54 on the USA Today Ad Meter.

This year, the company enlisted comedian Stephen Colbert, who's more well-known and established. "We wanted to raise it to a new level with a celebrity who really had a connection with folks out there," says Marc Seguin vice president of marketing for Paramount Farms, the unit of Roll that makes the nuts.

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