by Josh Kimball
Call it the year of the double teaser. And we’re not talking about the GoDaddy ads. One of the recent innovations in Super Bowl-related marketing is the early circulation of trailers for the ads that will be aired during the big game. Yes, ads for ads that appear online before any of the action even begins. One of the reasons for that is because Super Bowl spots aren’t simply commercials; they’re a mini-marketing surge that now has a growing lead up time and a (little bit of a) long tail.
Most viewers may be gabbing about guacamole during a brand’s 30-seconds of big game fame, but the Super Bowl halo shines far beyond the gridiron — and in just the past couple of years there’s gotten to be a lot more to it than just the TV coverage. This year’s Super Bowl even represented an English-language record for tweets per second. And thanks to those as-it-happens tweets noting the compelling ads, YouTube hosting all the spots for later review, and a culture of me-too consumer commentary and rating, the marketing that connects with consumers will still get outsized attention.
The 2012 Super Bowl’s big marketing takeaways:
1) More ecosystem, less event: While the Super Bowl is still primarily a TV event — and a mind-bogglingly successful one, at that — the ecosystem around it has boomed over the past couple years. Brands that don’t have the bucks to spend scripting Clint Eastwood spitting gravel or securing first quarter airtime still can grab eyeballs with hard work and savvy strategy.
We heard some viewers comment that it was becoming hard to keep up with both the commercials and the tweets. That split attention span offers opportunity for marketers with solid social media strategies, even as fractured attention means less immediate bang for the buck for brands putting ads on TV. Quick reactions and the online ecosystems matter. Branding author Rob Walker, commenting for AdWeek, talked about how many PR pitches he received in real time, as the very game was unfolding. And brands such as Amazon scored points by reacting to fans and tying product pitches into in-game (and even in-ad!) action on Twitter.
2) Nostalgia isn’t enough: From a content perspective, the obvious theme of this year’s Super Bowl ads was nostalgia. Marketers tried to hit every generation — from Gen Xer-aimed Ferris Bueller Honda spots to Chrysler’s Eastwood pitch for Baby Boomers and Budweiser’s grainy Prohibition callbacks.
Taken as a whole, the nostalgia theme wore thin with viewers, as the overall tone of looking backward made one ad bleed into the next. But individual memory-based ads were among the most effective ads of the Super Bowl. Eastwood’s Chrysler spot was direct, referenced specific events, had a point of view and therefore stirred emotion and conversation, helping the Chrysler brand stand out in tone and message from its car category competitors. It was also the best commercial for halftime we’ve ever seen. Go, halftime!
3) Momentum matters: GoDaddy had PR problems coming into the Super Bowl. They’ve taken heat over the past couple weeks for supporting the (ultimately shelved) Stop Online Privacy Act, a law which would have changed the way copyright laws were enforced on the Internet. They’ve also been blasted for sexist ads in years past. That combination — recent news events and a lowest-denominator approach to past spots — meant consumers weren’t as open to the company’s have-fun brand message as they have been in the past.
The night’s other just-OK performances? At least in the calculus immediately following the game’s glow, Samsung’s stylus raised many eyebrows. Oh, and Madonna’s arms got mixed reviews, as well.
Despite rumors of its demise, America’s game hasn’t declined as a media event. Last year’s Super Bowl was the highest-rated TV show of all time, with 111 million viewers. This year’s conference championship games had the highest TV ratings in 30 years. And in a cultural landscape where big events are more and more rare — even formerly bulletproof family fare like American Idol has an audience on the wane — shows that can draw millions of eyeballs and own a weekend are an even more important part of the mediascape and cultural conversation. The Super Bowl still matters — but the game has changed. As the social ecosystem has grown, the field marketers get to play on has gotten much bigger, and far less defined.