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.