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Super Bowl Advertisers: 30 Seconds During the Game is Just the Beginning
Marketers bemoan that they need new ways to reach audiences increasing using the Web and other technologies in lieu of television. They count on Super Bowl ads to not only reach a huge audience during the game, but garner more exposure by being written and talked about. But 2/3s of the 33 companies running Super Bowl ads aren’t taking the most obvious step: promoting and running the spot on their own web site. These companies should study what MasterCard, Burger King, and GoDaddy.com have done to use an array of interactive technologies to get extra bang for these megabucks.
Since I’m not a big football fan, and neither my hometown Patriots nor the Bears (I was born and raised in Chicago) are in the game, I’m likely to pass on it.
But as a career ad guy, I can’t pass up commenting on the commercials. Last year, my friend and colleague Charlene Li asked me to review the 2005 Super Bowl spots for her blog. This year, rather than comment on the spots themselves, I’ll comment on the strategies the companies are using to get attention for their spots.
Because it makes no sense to spend $2.5 million dollars for a single spot, even if it does reach the 90 million people the network expects. You can probably run 6 or 7 prime time network spots for the same money, and reach a more highly targeted audience. The only way to rationalize this expense is to use it as a platform for public relations, word of mouth, and other exposure for your spot. Just as the ads have come to almost overshadow the game, the value from exposure before and after the game overshadows the 30 seconds the brand is paying for.
PR departments went into high gear to try to get this coverage, and everyone from Ad Age, to USAToday, to the New York Times, to Good Morning America extensively covering the ads. If the game gets boring, check out Superbowl-ads.com for a comprehensive list of links to every story about them
But most companies are overlooking the obvious: post the ad on their own site. Checking out the sites of the 33 advertisers on Ad Age's list (registration may be required), I found:
- 64% of companies advertising on the Super Bowl don’t even mention on their site that they are running a Super Bowl ad
- 16% promote the spot, but tell the visitor to come back after the game to view it.
- Only 20% have the spot available before the game.
So they work hard to get Bob Garfield or Stuart Elliot to mention their ad before the game, but if they do pique a consumer's curiousity about it, the consumer can’t see it. In this always-on, instant-gratification culture, this approach no longer makes sense.
Here’s my take on the best and worst of their strategies:
The “Totally Clueless” Award
Goes to not one particular company, but the entire automobile industry. Car companies continue to demonstrate they are stuck in 1960s era mass marketing mindset. Five automakers are running 6 spots. Three of the companies do nothing to promote their Super Bowl involvement, while Ford and Toyota’s efforts are minimal; Ford posted a press release about their Kermit the Frog commercial for the Escape Hybrid. Period.
Toyota does a bit better: the Hispanic/English spot for the hybrid Camry is available at Toyota.com; but inexplicably there is no link from either the Camry or Hybrid pages of their site. Car companies continue to believe that huge advertising budgets can make up in volume what their campaigns lack in creativity and cross-media integration.
The “Somewhat Clueless” Award.
The winner is: Anheuser-Busch. This veteran of Super Bowl ads keeps a TV ad gallery on their sites. But you have to wait until after the game to see their Super Bowl spots. What’s more, if you go to ifilms.com, you get a full-screen takeover ad from Bud Light that proclaims “Watch our ads from the big game and download them to your iPod.” Click on the ad, and a perky hostess on budlight.com tells you to come back after the game. I don’t understand the strategy: they’ve already blown any surprise by leaking descriptions of the ads, if not clips, to the media. For my money, I’d put the ads on the site in hopes that there would be a couple of people at every Super Bowl party in the country that had seen them and tells everyone else, “Hey, you gotta watch the cool Bud ads!”
The “They Get It Pretty Well” Award
MasterCard gets it right: not only do they have their MacGyver spot available to view, they include the extras you’d expect on a movie DVD: an interview with Richard Dean Anderson, a “The Making Of” section, and a Gallery. My only quibble is that I wonder is people really care that much about the behind-the-scenes stuff for an ad the way they do for a movie. But the spot is also one of the best I have seen so far: demonstrating with charm and humor how you can use your MasterCard for everyday purchases you might not otherwise think of charging.
The “Beyond the Bleeding Edge” Award
Burger King gets the award for being the most innovative: their Sprint tie-in allows customers to opt-in to receive a text message notification when the spot is available for downloading to a Sprint phone. This is already the most-watched strategy this year, never mind that so few people have video-enabled phones. Kudos to Crispin Porter for seizing on the novelty factor as a PR opportunity plus getting early learning in this new medium, even if only five people in the country have the advanced handsets and services needed to view the spot.
The “They Really Get It” Award
I have to hand this award to GoDaddy.com. I question their decision to be on the Super Bowl at all (there must be better $2.5 million investments for a small company like theirs), but having decided on this approach, they have pulled out all the stops. Their strategy is to capitalize on the controversy of last year’s “wardrobe malfunction” spot. Beyond just running this year's spot, President Bob Parsons has blogged every step of trying to get the network to approve one of the 14 versions of the spot they have produced. Not only can you see the final spot, you can see every one of these versions.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they intentionally created spots that they knew the network would reject in order to create a David-vs-Goliath type story. But never mind. His posts have consistently gotten between 80 and 100 comments, so he has developed a strong following. It is great fun to read (especially if you have ever dealt with network censors) and the end result is a great send-up of the puritanical backlash that has ensued from the original Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction.
So enjoy the game.Advertising, video ads, super bowl ads
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Yeah, I would say that $2,5 million dollars for an ad campaign is a little steep, but I'm sure GD has a well planned advertising campaign with the funds to support it.
However, I think that some of those $$$ should be spent where a target audience is guaranteed, like with some of the new and upcomming internet advertising forces like STA - Success Through Advertising.
Posted by: eFella | Mar 1, 2006 9:07:21 AM
Jim, how funny - did you read my post on Charlene's blog this year? Apparently integrated marketing during the Super Bowl hit its apex in 2004 but never got up off the pavement. One thing no one seems to be mentioning: careerbuilder.com or its pre-game viral marketing. If a WOM campaign launches and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?
Posted by: Peter Kim | Feb 11, 2006 10:54:25 PM
Even though this isn't exactly what I was serching for, I continued to read the story. It was interesting, well-written, lots of stuff I, a) didn't know and b) didn't think about.
Good blog, I'm bookmarking you.
Posted by: LP | Feb 6, 2006 2:18:50 AM
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