Forget the days when you were totally surprised by the ads airing on Super Bowl Sunday. More than ever, companies are releasing ads weeks before the big game, often creating ad teasers (yes — that’s an ad for an ad) as part of a broader viral campaign. The reason? As TIME’s Brad Tuttle explained, releasing ads early can extend the lifespans of those staggeringly expensive Super Bowl ad spots, which this year are costing advertisers about $3.8 million per 30-second commercial.
A number of ads are creating pre-game buzz and even mild controversy this year. Kate Upton is “washing cars” for Mercedes-Benz. Tracy Morgan is spewing profanity for water enhancer Mio Fit. Amy Poehler is trying to give a boost to ailing big-box retailer Best Buy. Even Psy is hawking Wonderful Pistachios. But collectively, automakers seem to be releasing the most interesting ad teasers so far, with Volkswagen, Toyota, and Hyundai all launching interest-piquing pre-game spots. To see those and more, check out this sneak preview of the year’s most buzzed-about Super Bowl ads.
How’s this for a viral advertising strategy? Get a bunch of people together who have already starred in viral ads. That’s what Volkswagen does in “Sunny Side,” a good old-fashioned singalong led by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff belting out The Partridge Family’s “Come On Get Happy” with a roster of recognizably sad and furious YouTube “stars,” including eHarmony cat lady, angry politician Phil Davison and “Sad Packer Fan.” Volkswagen has created some of the more memorable Super Bowl ads over the last few years, including 2011′s viral hit “The Force” (which currently has 54 million views on YouTube). While this year’s ad doesn’t have quite the pop of previous spots, the fact that they rounded up viral celebs like video game-smashing guitar guy and crazed baseball manager Phil Wellman already has people talking.