1.23.2012

Super Ads - What You Can Learn From This Year's Super Bowl Commercials


Not only is the Super Bowl the championship game between the top NFL teams; it is also the championship of advertising. It's the big leagues of the ad world. It's the event that allows every advertising agency, Fortune 500 company and ambitious (and well-financed) start-up to strut their stuff on a national scale, to compete for the minds of tens of millions of viewers. Many people even consider the commercials the best part of the Super Bowl.
Despite all the fanfare associated with this annual media event, the Super Bowl is the great catch-22 of the marketing world. The problem is that this advertising bonanza is a relic of the old media structure. Marketing is now about creating relationships; not about forcing a message on the consumer. We like Super Bowl ads because they are witty, have high production value and, put simply, are fun to watch. However, even the best Super Bowl ads, the ones that people talk about at work on Monday, probably don't generate a substantial increase in sales on their own.

Not to worry though; these ads, which are viewed by over a 100 million potential customers, provide a tremendous opportunity if leveraged effectively. In the era of social media, there is enormous potential for brands to use their Super Bowl spots as a jumping-off point for more tangible engagement, and ultimately, sales. An increasing number of Super Bowl ads are incorporating some sort of social media tie-in, ranging from a simple Facebook or Twitter link to a full-blown social media campaign complementing the ad.

Twitter hashtags are a great first step towards encouraging online discussion, but why stop there? Pepsi got it right with their "Refresh" campaign. This program allows visitors to a dedicated website to vote on social causes to which the company should contribute. This campaign has been particularly successful because it includes a personal/emotional angle that draws the consumer in. GoDaddy is another advertiser that has fully embraced online integration with their Super Bowl spots, although using a very different strategy. The company has become known for airing racy ads featuring famous women. At the end of each of these ads, they encourage viewers to visit their website in order to view additional content "too hot for TV". A growing number of companies post their ads online in advance to stir up buzz leading up to the big game. Others, such as Doritos, accept user-generated ad submissions and then allow their website visitors to vote on which commercial will run during the game. Another engagement strategy is to implement social media campaigns both leading up to and during the game, which are then highlighted in the company's Super Bowl ads.


Whichever approach is taken, these types of integrated campaigns enable advertisers to promote online engagement to an offline market and generate buzz well beyond the day of the game. Even if your company won't be advertising during the Super Bowl (and at $3.5 million for a 30 second spot, most small or medium sized businesses won't be), you can still utilize this strategy of integrating online and offline campaigns. Add a QR code, Twitter hashtag or your social media accounts to your printed marketing collateral or TV ads. The more you align your various campaigns, the greater synergy you will experience.