At almost $4 million per 30 seconds, Super Bowl ads are the most expensive commercial time known to man. But these spots provide national consumer brands a lot more than one fleeting appearance during the Super Bowl. That's just the tip of the adberg.
For starters, the ads are only partly aimed at prospective customers. There are actually multiple targets: the brand's employees (build morale); the brand's competitors (demoralize); clients (reengage); retailers and distributors (reinvigorate); Wall Street (reassure); etc. The varied audiences are a big part of justifying the multi-million-dollar investment.
Beyond that, the ads are a springboard for an increasing variety of promotional activities in the run-up to the game itself, from preview spots online to consumer-generated ad submissions to social media campaigns to contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways. As the trade publication Advertising Age has noted, "[i]t helps amortize the cost of the commercial by generating millions of dollars in free publicity."
Start with consumer-generated content – everything from finished TV spots for Doritos to Pepsi-lovers' pictures of themselves. The beverage maker is currently running 15 second TV spots calling on consumers to submit self-portraits that might be incorporated into one of Pepsi's Super Bowl ads.
"It really begins with the insight that Pepsi consumers want to be active participants, not observers of life," a Pepsi exec told Ad Age.
Doritos, meanwhile, is into year umpteen (actually, year seven) of its wildly successful “Crash the Super Bowl” promotion, which calls on consumers to — well, I’ll let them describe it:
Get together your idea for a DORITOS® brand commercial to air during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII. Make it action-packed. Make it funny. Make it something you’ve never seen before. It’s up to you. Just make it awesome.
You can see — and vote for — the five finalists on Doritos's Facebook page. Our money's on the chip eating goat.
The Lincoln Motor Company, which has hired comedian Jimmy Fallon to work on its maiden Super Bowl ad, called on consumers to submit script suggestions via Twitter based on unique road experiences. In three days, they received 6,000 submissions, five of which will be used in the finished spot, accompanied by the contributors' Twitter handles.
Another approach to maximizing the investment in Super Bowl ads is posting teasers of them online. Taco Bell, for instance, has released this teaser on YouTube called "Grandpa Goes Wild,” which depicts an elderly gent joyriding around a football field on his scooter and knocking down everything in his path.
In a 19 second teaser from first-time Super Bowl advertiser Gildan Activewear, a confused young man wakes up in handcuffs with lipstick smeared on his face. It looks like a knockoff of "The Hangover," which makes perfect sense given the tendency of Super Bowl ads to revolve around sex, violence, and a wide variety of animals (see the chip eating goat above).
All this endless previewing and teasing, though, runs the risk of minimizing the impact of the ads on Super Bowl Sunday. The element of surprise, after all, was what made Apple's landmark "1984" ad such a bombshell three decades ago. Before then, advertisers tended to run their current ads during the Super Bowl broadcast. Apple changed all that, initiating the official Super Bowl ad-stravaganza that's evolved into the bloated, overblown, underwhelming carnival of today.
The New York Times notes that some advertisers have decided not to show so much leg in advance of this year's game, hoping to capitalize on the old-fashioned element of surprise. When you see Psy touting Wonderful Pistachios Gangnam-style or Tracy Morgan pushing MiO Fit water enhancer on the Big Broadcast, they'll be fresh.
This program aired on January 24, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.