Super Bowl Fever: Marketing To the Real Masses During the Advertising Industry's Super Bowl

By Brian Bennett, Owner and President, STIR Advertising & Integrated Messaging

Over 100 million people watch the Super Bowl every year and many come not for the football. No, many come simply to see some of the freshest and most entertaining ads on the planet. The Super Bowl is a three-hour plus parade of comedy, creativity, polish, technical wizardry and high art.

For those of us in the advertising industry, the Super Bowl is our Super Bowl. It's our chance to shine and put forth our best creative work before a huge worldwide audience. Afterward, most people talk more about the commercials than the game.

Average viewership for the game set a record last year, at 111.3 million people — the third year in a row that a Super Bowl set a ratings record, driving pricing higher and higher. Because of its clout, it's the best place to impact the market on a national or local level.

CBS, which will broadcast the game, is charging $3.7 million to $3.8 million for each 30-second spot, with a total inventory of about 66. But don't even think about getting in on this year's broadcast. They've been sold out for months. "But," says Leslie Moonves, chairman and chief executive of the CBS Corporation, "if one of those movie companies wants to come in and pay five or six million, we will find room." (In case you haven't done the math, CBS stands to earn about $250 million for the Super Bowl broadcast.)

For the advertiser, purchasing the air time is only the beginning of the outlay. Making the commercial costs another $1-2 million — or more — depending on special effects, production techniques, celebrity endorsements, etc.

With the stakes so high, the pressure is on to make the best of the investment.So, invisible to the viewer but nonetheless present are also some very focused and deliberate marketing strategies.

Second Screens

Advertisers refer to the actual commercial airing as a "first screen."Again in 2013, viewership of the first screen will be over the top — and that's in addition to "pre-screen" views on websites like www.superbowl-commercials.org/ and YouTube.

What is really interesting is to see how marketers are handing the "second screens" — the interactive computers, pads and mobile phone devices that house web sites and social media apps.Generating a larger, more engaged audience by leveraging these tools before, during and after the game is what many are banking on to make their investment pay out.Developing the programs to generate this interest will cost nearly as much in many cases as the ads themselves, so in essence it's a double down on the bet.

To Leak or Not To Leak

Some believe that leaking information out in advance is the best way to generate a following. Many advertisers have been doing this for years.

A second group will wait until the game itself to try to blow you away with the surprise value of their entertaining concept. Many of these will tease their coming commercials with publicity, tweets and the like.

Though it will run promotions on social media and at retail, Paramount Farms will keep a 30-second ad for Wonderful Pistachios featuring South Korean rapper Psy a secret, said Marc Seguin, VP-marketing. "It's exciting enough and visually has so much talk value. We want everyone to see it at once," he said. Likewise, Roy Benin, chief consumer officer for Mars Chocolate North America is fearful of bursting "the anticipation bubble," so the candy maker won't tip its hand on its M&M ad. "There's that first-time, premier reveal [in game] that we believe is compelling."

Then, there is a third group, composed mostly of newbies who can't afford a full blown social marketing blitz and traditionalists who want their ads to stand on their own.

If It's There, Use It

Social media-savvy marketers see the Super Bowl as much more than a game and an opportunity to air their commercials.It's an opportunity to generate conversation with friends and family, and to build a loyal and lasting following. So, it would appear that social media isn't taking away from traditional advertising; it's driving it — complementing it.

Harnessing the power of social media makes perfect business sense. When an advertiser shells out between up to $4.5 million for a Super Bowl ad, using social media to get added exposure isn't just an afterthought. It helps amortize the cost of the commercial by generating millions of dollars in free publicity.Normally, chatter about Super Bowl ads begins to fade between 24 and 48 hours after the game is over, said Loren Angelo, general manager for brand marketing for Audi. Unveiling the ads in the weeks before kickoff gives an advertiser the ability to have "a much longer conversation" with consumers.

Turning Customers Into Contributors

Doritos made crowdsourcing work first with its "Crash the Super Bowl" contest — then Dannon, Pepsi and Chevrolet climbed on board last year — and now the bandwagon is quickly getting crowded.Lincoln is doing it (with Jimmy Fallon), and Pepsi is even crowdsourcing the halftime show.

Lincoln hired Jimmy Fallon to help produce its first Super Bowl ad based on tweeted script submissions. (Contributors to the finished product will have their Twitter handles displayed in the spot.) Pepsi is taking to social media to ask fans for pictures of themselves to be part of a commercial to run just before the halftime show; Toyota is asking fans on Twitter to submit a photo to be included in its ad. And for the seventh year, Doritos is holding its "Crash the Super Bowl" contest in which fans vote on spots created by amateur filmmakers. But this year the voting will occur on Facebook.

It's Still Entertainment

Today's consumers are smarter. We are tech-savvy, and tech-heavy, with high definition TVs, smart phones, iPads, laptops and internet access virtually everywhere.

We are either more social, or social media savvy, or both. We use our tools and toys, and so do brand marketers.

The Super Bowl may be a football game, and it might be a great one. But in the end, it's still a medium for bringing us advertising – great advertising. The best the industry has to offer.

Somehow we know we're being manipulated, but somehow, we don't care. It's still great theater and great entertainment. We'll still talk about it the day afterward, not because they want us to, but because it impressed us.

Brian Bennett is owner and president of STIR Advertising & Integrated Messaging, a national advertising and marketing firm based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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