The Super Bowl Toss-Up: Why it’s Still Anyone’s Game When it Comes to This Year’s Advertising

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It’s that time of year again: Super Bowl. While millions of fans crowd into packed bars and cramped living rooms, each jockeying for the perfect couch position, marketers and ad execs are burning the midnight oil to put the finishing touches on a campaign that will fuel Monday morning discussions at the local coffee shop. It is not an easy task; yet for those who succeed, the rewards can drive brand success.

For this potential pot of gold, the advertiser must pay a hefty price. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, the cost of a 30-second spot is expected to top out at a reported $2.6 million this year, up from a record $2.5 million in 2006. Over the last 20 years, the top five Super Bowl advertisers alone have spent $613.4 million for offline campaigns, accounting for 35% of the total advertising dollars spent in the game. In 2007 this trend is set to continue and the real figures for Super Bowl ad spending will probably be higher than any figures previously reported, as marketers are also using online to promote their Super Bowl association. And, in more ways than one…

And the Stevie Award Goes To…You.

Given the massive popularity of YouTube and other similar entities, one thing is clear: people love capturing and creating. Marketers are taking notice and involving people in the creative advertising process. For this year’s game, advertisers such as the National Football League and Doritos invited people to submit their own ideas for commercials to air during the game. For the winners, the contest allows them to bring their idea to life and for it to be aired during one of the most watched television nights of the entire year. Doritos is even offering the winning fan’s ad an incentive of $10,000. The prospect of fame and fortune tends to attract someone’s attention – the Doritos promotion to create their Super Bowl ad saw more than 1,000 entries. That number was narrowed down to five finalists and the ads were then put online for a popular vote. Power from the people, back to the people.

The idea of engaging people with a brand isn’t new. However, 2006 saw it being taken to a whole new level. People are the creators and the audience. Call it what you wish — user generated content, the ‘me-media’ phenomena…whatever the label, the trend is the same for marketers. It’s no longer about a one-way dialogue. Conversations are taking place among people. And now marketers are actively part of those conversations and are spurring them along.

Digital mediums have democratized the creative process — both in terms of production and distribution. As we’ve seen, consumers are also the creators. By marketers willingly reaching out to the public for content, they are not only following the industry’s trends, they may also be decreasing their creative costs. Creative ideas from an amateur vs. an ad agency: which is cheaper? My bet is the amateur’s ad, depending of course on whether it’s the agency’s idea to begin with.

The Super Bowl: From 30 seconds to…

What this year’s activity shows is that a marketer’s Super Bowl campaign lasts beyond the 30 second spot. There’s the pre-promotion and not just from those brands that are asking people to create their Super Bowl ad this year. Nationwide Insurance, for example, began previewing its Super Bowl spot Monday, January 29th, on its website.

Last year, the insurance company points out, people were visiting websites like iFilm for months afterward to watch their Super Bowl commercial – 1.8 million downloads to be precise. CareerBuilder is also offering a teaser of its Super Bowl ads with a humorous online promotion, the Age-O-Matic, which shows the aging that happens when a person spends too much time at a “soul-sucking job.” These online only teaser campaigns are great for drawing people into a website ahead of the game, and ahead of the other advertisers.

Then there’s the post promotion. YouTube is running a Supervote on Feb 4th — where ‘the game begins after the game’ (as they say). The Super Bowl commercials will be done ‘YouTube style’ and will be voted on. The king of Super Bowl ads, Anheuser-Busch, is giving all of the public a chance to weigh in, using e-mail messages to invite consumers to vote for their favorite Super Bowl spots by sending text messages or visiting a Web site. Digital is playing a significant role in both pre and post promotion, resulting in a brand’s investment and presence increasing beyond their Super Bowl screening.

The Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts are preparing to square off so grab yourself a seat and get ready to watch the battle both on the field and off. As in years past, the game this year will be just as much about the teams as it will be about the advertisers, their campaigns and the strategies that made them all work. Once the final whistle blows we will know our winners and the secret to their success. Stay tuned.

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