Friday, February 3, 2012

Super Bowl Advertising: The Rules Have Changed

For more than two decades the one USA Today that I go out of my way to purchase is the Friday edition leading up to Super Bowl Sunday. Not because I'm trying to get acquainted with the teams and make predictions about the game, but because I’m an ad man and I pretty much live for those expensive commercials.

Don’t blink. At $3.5 million per 30-second spot, you’re missing $116,667 per second of ad space that was purchased for this weekend’s big game, Super Bowl XLVI.

But this year, something amazing has happened. The rules have changed. It used to be that commercials were kept under wraps until their very brief moment in the sun. Like a rare bird, you had to be paying attention in order to catch those Clydesdales or flying monkeys or those GoDaddy girls. This year things have been turned on their heads. The advertisers have been falling all over themselves to get us to see those super-expensive spots ahead of the game. Now wouldn’t it be funny if this actually turned out to be detrimental to NFL Football? How many millions who already saw the commercials skip the game itself?

As the New York Times put it, “The one thing missing from this year’s commercials: Surprise. That’s because advertisers are looking for Green in advance by taking advantage of social media to make their stories go viral.”

Most, if not all, the advertisers have been releasing their spots on YouTube well in advance of the coin toss. The Camaro spot was released on January 19, seventeen days before Sunday’s game. And Kia began showing its spot in 18,000 theaters around the country yesterday. Oof da.
I myself have watched several of the spots, and as usual they are not all Oscar winners. The Vampires spot by Audi was sort of clever even if a bit dark, but I never saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so I didn’t really fasten on to the parody by … who was it? Honda?

And this is what I don’t get. I owned a Honda, and the engineering is great. Tell me something about the car. How do you make such great cars? When you hire a movie star like Matthew Broderick, all you’re doing is saying, “We don’t have a story, so we will position ourselves like all the other car makers who don’t have a story.” What’s with that? But then again, Super Bowl commercials don't seem to be about educating customers. It's entertainment. The obligation seems to be to get people to talking about it afterwards. Well, that used to be the goal. Now it seems to be to get people talking about it before the game.

I liked the Seinfeld ad for Acura titled Transactions. It makes the car something desirable, something to crave.

You might say that all these pre-game ads are becoming the big story of the week… except there’s still another big story overshadowing even this. Where will Peyton Manning be playing when the 2012 season begins? He’s been a great QB, but you’d think he could walk on water the way the sports show talking heads are gobbling about him. He’s here, he’s there… he’s everywhere.

Meanwhile, in just over 48 hours we’ll see the only real showdown that matters. “Eli’s Coming” has to be the Manning anthem. We’ll soon see how quick and accurate Brady’s guns are.

Top right: The pundit, yours truly, ennyman.

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