Weighing Reveal Strategies for Super Bowl Ads

Social media has impacted marketing on many fronts, including one of the most hallowed grounds of advertising, the Super Bowl. A tradition of Super Bowl advertising has been the debut of new commercials and ad campaigns by brands using the platform of the big game to reach a huge and involved audience. That tradition seems to be eroding as more advertisers are posting versions of their Super Bowl commercials on their websites and social media pages several day ahead of Super Bowl Sunday. Does this strategy fall under the category “just because you can do it does not mean you should?”

Super Bowl advertisers must weigh the impact benefits of waiting to reveal a commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast versus the added exposure of a campaign that launches before the Super Bowl. Using a reveal strategy for Super Bowl commercials plays to the anticipation that Super Bowl viewers have about commercials. It marks a drastic departure from our normal viewing behavior the other 364 days in the year when many of us actively avoid commercial messages. The buzz created when a commercial airs for the first time in front of more than 110 million viewers can be powerful. The water cooler effect has been amplified and brought to real time by social media. Word-of-mouth about Super Bowl commercials does not begin on Monday morning in the office; it unfolds as ads appear during the game. Thus, a reveal approach seems to enjoy the benefits of anticipation from build-up to the debut as well as online chatter created once viewers are exposed to a commercial.

In the end, Super Bowl advertisers must acknowledge what the objectives are for their commercials and select an ad launch strategy that fits with the desired effect. If the aim is simply to create brand buzz, then a reveal strategy may still be an appropriate choice. Not only do advertisers enjoy the impact of viewers seeing a commercial for the first time, but they can also encourage word-of-mouth and engagement via social media. Including Twitter hashtags, for example, related to the Super Bowl, the commercial, or the brand can spark brand mentions and interactions after a spot airs. If the objective is tied to achieving outcomes more directly connected to revenue generation such as acquiring new customers or sales increases, then maximizing a Super Bowl commercial’s impact by making it part of a campaign that bows in advance of the game may be a better fit with marketing objectives.

Ad Age – “Is Social Media Spoiling the Super Bowl Ad Surprise?”

Advertising: When to Play, When to Sit

General Motors made waves in the advertising industry not once, but twice in the past week. First, GM announced that it would no longer buy ads on Facebook. A few days later, GM made perhaps an even more surprising announcement that it did not plan to advertise during Super Bowl XLVII next February. What is going on? One of the biggest spenders on measured media is stepping away from a trendy new medium and a vaunted cultural event at the same time. These moves do not seem like decisions of a company that reported a net income of $1 billion in the most recent quarter. But, just because a company has resources to spend on certain marketing activities does not mean it should. GM has figured this out.
The primary question for GM or any business to consider is not whether it can afford to advertise on Facebook, the Super Bowl, or any other medium. Instead, what really matters is what marketing objective can be achieved as a result of the marketing spend? If a marketing tactic does not deliver against one or more objectives – don’t do it! GM’s reservations with Facebook and Super Bowl advertising may be caused by not establishing a link between the activity and the outcome. Apparently, GM’s competitors feel this way as Ford jabbed at GM for its Facebook decision, suggesting GM does not “get” social media. And, Hyundai felt the need to proclaim its intention to continue as a Super Bowl advertiser.
Did General Motors make good decisions to step away from advertising on Facebook and during the Super Bowl? Yes, if it cannot determine how to use these channels to advance its business. Brands have a multitude of options to choose from when developing marketing communications strategy. Facebook and the Super Bowl are effective communication channels for many brands but not necessarily all brands. And, let’s not forget that GM is not bailing on Facebook, just Facebook advertising. Also, the company says it will have a presence around the Super Bowl, just not in-game commercials.
The advertising game consists of many different ad “plays,” with Facebook and the Super Bowl being but two of them. If you have a game plan, identifying objectives an ad play should achieve, then get in the game. If an ad play does not advance the brand or business, sit on the sidelines even if “everybody” is advertising there.

Make Every Day Super Bowl Sunday

Like millions of other people, I cannot wait for the Super Bowl. The two-week break between the conference championships and the “Big Game” is excruciating- let’s play already! And as is the case most years, I do not even have a vested interest in the game as I do not have strong feelings to cheer for either the Giants or Patriots. I just want to watch the Super Bowl, enjoy the company of my son’s church youth group, and of course, watch commercials. So do many other Americans; a recent survey by CouponCabin.com found that 37% of persons surveyed watch the Super Bowl primarily for the commercials.

It’s a marketer’s dream come true: People wanting to see ad messages. Unfortunately, that sentiment is limited to Super Bowl Sunday and precious few other occasions such as the Academy Awards broadcast. Otherwise, most of us actively avoid commercial messages. Why? They can be intrusive, annoying, and irrelevant to us. What makes Super Bowl commercials different, and what can we learn from Super Bowl advertising to make us more effective communicators each day of the year?

The Super Bowl has become a cultural celebration as much as it is a championship football game. Advertisers are joining in the festivities rather interrupting our lives as is usually the case. The most popular Super Bowl commercials seem to share a characteristic that people can relate to the message. Whether it is the appearance of a popular celebrity, depiction of a humorous situation in everyday life, or a message that creatively captivates our attention, the best Super Bowl commercials resonate with the audience. In contrast, most ad messages are not as effective because the focus is more on the product and its capabilities, not how it fits with users’ lifestyles and adds value for them.

Let’s adopt the mindset of Super Bowl advertising every day of the year. Marketing messages must be conceived, designed, and executed from the customers’ viewpoint. We must constantly put ourselves in the target market’s shoes and ask the question “What’s in it for me?” Do our advertising messages provide a satisfactory answer? Our goal should be to strive to make marketing as appealing daily as it is on Super Bowl Sunday. May your team (or your brand) win this Sunday.

What’s Behind our Super Bowl Obsession?

Most Americans know that this Sunday brings the biggest football game of the year. Super Bowl XLV will feature two of the most storied franchises in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. The Super Bowl has become more than a game; it is a cultural event that has become an unofficial national holiday. A study done for the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association projects consumers will spend $10.1 on purchases related to the big game this year.

Among notable statistics from the NAMA survey:
• 171 million people are expected to watch the game (the largest audience ever)
• 61 million people plan to attend a party
• 35 million people plan to host a party (for the 61.2 million to attend!)
• 4.5 million people plan to purchase a new television
• 75% of persons surveyed said the commercials serve as entertainment
• 18% said commercials help to increase their awareness of the brands advertised

Wow! The Super Bowl’s attraction to a large majority of the population is undeniable. It is amazing in part because fans of 30 out of the NFL’s 32 teams will feel a sense of emptiness Sunday. Their teams will not be playing, yet many of them will be watching. And, many people who watch little or no football during the season will be tuned in Sunday (including 2 people in my home). How did we get to this point? The NFL helped build the Super Bowl brand, obviously, with a great on-field product, broadcasting partners that bring the drama into our living rooms, and transforming the game into a major entertainment event.

Before we give the NFL all of the credit for the popularity of the Super Bowl, we should acknowledge it is the beneficiary of human nature. We like to be part of communities of people, whether it is fellow football fans, friends, or family. The Super Bowl is an opportunity (if not an excuse) for us to come together with others with whom we share common interests.

Marketers seeking to build a great brand can learn from this characteristic of the Super Bowl and sports in general. For all of the talk about how the Internet isolates people, most of us want to belong to a community, be it face-to-face or virtual. What can you do to promote development of a brand community, a group of customers and friends that share an affinity for your brand and products?

As for Sunday’s game, we know that among the expected 171 million viewers will be fans of the Steelers and Packers. I am sure my friends Mark, Faye, and Mike will be decked out in black and gold; my former students Joshua and Katie will no doubt be cheering on the Packers. Regardless of which team you support, enjoy as you spend time engaged with your community whether it is at home with your family, at a party with friends, in a pub with strangers, or with your hashtag-wielding pals on Twitter.

Super Bowl Advertising: From Exposure to Engagement

The Super Bowl is a coveted advertising vehicle because of the tremendous reach that it possesses. Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints will attract nearly 100,000,000 viewers. If the audience size were not enough, the Super Bowl has the added characteristic of an audience that looks forward to commercials rather than avoiding them. What more could a marketer want? How about brand engagement.

Achieving brand exposure is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for selling a product. Let’s face it, brand awareness can be created against someone’s will through repetition and a consistent message (I am thinking of those “memorable” Head On commercials). So, Super Bowl commercials will be seen by tens of millions of people who will do what? Remember the brands advertised? Maybe. Like a Super Bowl advertiser more because of exposure to a commercial? It is possible. Awareness-based metrics are problematic if the aim is to have relationships with customers. For this reason, more Super Bowl advertisers are shifting efforts toward engaging consumers beyond the 30-second spot.

Two examples of advertisers using Super Bowl commercials as a way to drive engagement are Levi’s and Denny’s. Levi’s Dockers brand will be featured in a commercial that encourages viewers to “tag” the ad using a phone app. The app will give access to branded content as well as an opportunity to enter a pants giveaway promotion. Denny’s is repeating its free Grand Slam Breakfast promotion, promoting a food giveaway that will take place Tuesday, February 9th. In addition, Denny’s will be doing a free burger and fries for a year giveaway among persons who register for Denny’s Rewards online. The promotion drives traffic to stores and builds Denny’s e-mail database. At the same time, visitors can learn how to connect with Denny’s on social networking web sites.

The costs of the promotions planned for Dockers and Denny’s add to the cost of being associated with the Super Bowl. The question is whether being seen on the big game (i.e., exposure) is a good enough outcome to accept. Engagement is the name of the game in marketing today, and tactics that make engagement more likely must be pursued.

The Best $3 Million Never Spent on a Super Bowl Commercial

At more than $3 million for 30 seconds of air time, one wonders if the investment in Super Bowl advertising is worth it. How about not spending a penny on airing a Super Bowl spot but getting brand exposure anyway? That scenario describes what has happened to ManCrunch.com, an online dating site for gay men. CBS rejected the Toronto-based site’s proposed Super Bowl spot, citing concerns that the ad did not fit the tone of programming for Super Bowl Sunday. CBS also said it could not verify the prospective advertiser’s creditworthiness.

Is the ManCrunch.com commercial too much for Super Bowl Sunday? You can decide by watching the spot. Another question to decide for yourself: did ManCrunch.com really intend to spend $3 million to air a commercial? My theory is that the company knew the ad would not pass the CBS “taste test.” But, by submitting the ad for review and indicating an interest in being an advertiser, ManCrunch.com is receiving extensive publicity. Cost: not $3 million! Sometimes, it pays to not spend marketing dollars.

New Position for Super Bowl Ad Mainstays: Sidelines

Advertising aired during the Super Bowl each year creates nearly as much excitement as the big game itself. Why not? It is an event in which 90 million or more viewers are tuned in, and the lore of Super Bowl commercials makes viewers more receptive to commercials than they are the other 364 days of the year. The popularity of the Super Bowl has driven up the price for a 30-second spot to the point that this year’s game will cost advertisers $3 million.

The Super Bowl is as popular as ever, but Super Bowl advertising may be another story. Some longtime advertisers have opted not buy spots this year. Most notable is Pepsi, which announced its intention to focus on a cause-related initiative, The Pepsi Refresh Project. FedEx, another veteran Super Bowl marketer, has indicated that it, too, will not buy commercial time. Escalating ad rates have led Pepsi and FedEx to question whether a Super Bowl ad buy is the best use of resources. Evidently, the answer was “no.”

The Super Bowl is a marquee event, but in today’s highly connected world there are many options for reaching and engaging audiences. The decisions by Pepsi and FedEx in no way suggest that marketing through sports is losing its power or appeal. These companies have audiences to reach beyond what the Super Bowl can deliver. Super Bowl ad sales remain strong as more than 90% of the spots are sold already. Given that we are in the early stages of emerging from a recession, that figure is impressive. Super Bowl advertisers come and go; it would not be surprising to see Pepsi or FedEx step off the sidelines in the future and advertise during the Super Bowl again.

MediaBuyerPlanner – “Pepsi Drops Super Bowl Ads”

Denny’s Super Bowl Grand Slam

Denny’s Restaurants made quite a splash with its first Super Bowl commercial on February 1. The restaurant chain promised everyone in America a free Grand Slam Breakfast between 6:00 AM and 2:00 PM on February 3. The $3 million outlay for air time and support advertising online, not to mention the cost of the meals given away, would seem to increase the odds that Denny’s Super Bowl marketing effort would not pay off. All indications to this point suggest otherwise.

The promotion itself was a tremendous success, with Denny’s estimating 2 million customers visited its locations on February 3. Denny’s experienced a spike in web site visits, too, following the Super Bowl commercial. A 23% increase in hits was second only to GoDaddy’s 29% increase. Search engine terms related to Denny’s rose following the commercial airing on the Super Bowl. Also, it is estimated that Denny’s received media exposure of the commercial and promotion valued at $50 million.

Denny’s Super Bowl marketing program was a great success in terms of creating awareness and interest in the brand. The ultimate test of the campaign will play out in the future. Will the investment made on Super Bowl advertising lead to more customers patronizing Denny’s more frequently and spending more money? If those outcomes occur, then we can say with certainty that Denny’s hit a grand slam during Super Bowl XLIII.
Link: Marketing Daily – “Denny’s Free-Breakfast Super Bowl Ad Scores”

Super Bowl Advertising III: Stay on Sidelines or Get in Game?

A weak economy has forced many Super Bowl advertisers to re-evaluate their participation in the big game. Actually, review of committing to being a Super Bowl advertising has been ongoing for many advertisers as the price for a 30-second spot has risen 50% since 2002. This year’s going rate of $3 million serves as a reason for advertisers to scrutinize whether the money invested on the air time, producing a commercial, and other marketing spending in support of their Super Bowl ad is worth it. Two veteran advertisers, GM and FedEx, concluded the answer is “no” and will not be advertising during the Super Bowl. Three rookies join the commercial lineup: General Electric, Denny’s, and Pedigree.

The question of whether to commit $3 million-plus to Super Bowl marketing is the same question a marketer asks when considering a $300 ad in the local newspaper: can a return on investment be attained that justifies spending the money? An even more important question to ask is: what is the ad supposed to accomplish? Is it reasonable to expect sales will increase? Will we get more telephone calls or web site hits from people wanting to know more about our business? Will awareness for our company or brand increase, which could lead to increased sales?

Being a Super Bowl advertiser can be a badge of honor for a marketer, albeit a very expensive badge! Being a part of the game is not the objective to attain; it is crucial that any marketing spend have an outcome that will advance a brand in some way.

Link: Advertising Age – “Rookies Eager to Play in Super Bowl”

Super Bowl Advertising II: Advertisers Mindful of Tone of Their Messages

Super Bowl advertisers have been forced to reconsider the tone of their messages this year in the wake of a gloomy economy. Two reasons for reconsidering what is said and how to say it: sensitivity and opportunity. Advertisers are sensitive to the plight of the thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs in recent months. While Super Bowl commercials can provide levity to one’s situation, failure to consider if a message is in line with consumer sentiment could result in encouraging consumption that consumers simply cannot afford at this time.

The opportunity driver of ad message evaluation is changing messages to respond to consumer needs at this time. For example, Hyundai purchased two 30-second spots months ago, before the economic meltdown occurred. The original plan was to run two spots for its Genesis coupe. Now, Hyundai will run one spot for the Genesis and one for its Hyundai Assurance plan, which helps customers who run into difficulty repaying their loan.

The Super Bowl is a festive event, a time when viewers can set aside whatever issues they are dealing with for a few hours. Kudos to the advertisers that recognize this and have taken steps to make sure their commercials do not disrupt the positive atmosphere.

Link: The New York Times – “Advertisers Change Game Plans for Super Bowl”