Big-Budget TV Ads Alone Aren’t Enough: Use Programmatic to Tell Your Brand Story


ADOTAS – Super Bowl Sunday is a unique day in the U.S. Tens of millions will tune in to watch the big game, though according to research firm Lab42, 39% prefer the commercials over the game vs. 29% who prefer the football.

The Super Bowl is the advertising industry’s equivalent to the Oscars. Brands put on their best ads, and given the number of eyes that will see it in real time (a rarity given today’s on-demand TV), competition to snag the 30-second spots is fierce. In 2014, a 30-second spot cost $3.8 million.

TV commercials do a great job in telling a brand story, a fact that Anheuser Busch clearly gets. Case in point: This year’s Super Bowl spot for Budweiser (pictured), featuring the improbable friendship between a puppy and a Budweiser Clydesdale horse (#BestBuds).

But that’s not the whole story. The real hook is the cute, sensitive horse trainer who repeatedly returns the puppy to its kennel after it escapes to see its friend, and who finally opts to adopt it.

The sensitive trainer also starred in the 2013 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial, in which he raises a colt who then goes on to be an official Budweiser Clydesdale. The two reunite three years later when at a parade, the horse recognizes his beloved trainer and breaks free to greet him.

On a certain level, these aren’t commercials; they’re chick flicks, and the brand story being told is that handsome men who care for baby animals drink Bud (take note single ladies).

No one can deny that Budweiser brand marketers did a spectacular job the night of the Super Bowl. But should they rest on their laurels? Is it enough to tell a brand story once a year, or should they extend their success in the months to come?

Given that Bud’s puppy love commercial received 45 million YouTube hits in the first week after the Super Bowl, I think it’s a crime not to capitalize on that success. And with programmatic, extending that brand story couldn’t be easier. Here’s why:

Massive reach – and no wasted impressions

To a large degree, TV today is a highly fragmented digital channel. Consumers watch their favorite shows whenever or wherever they want through on-demand services, or by visiting Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or even the websites of the networks that air the shows. Programmatic can easily match the reach of the Super Bowl audience, and do it better.

For instance, Budweiser can use programmatic tactics to target only women, or anyone who watched the puppy love commercial on YouTube. Put another way, due to rich targeting capabilities, you won’t waste any impressions on people for whom a brand story doesn’t resonate.

Moreover, programmatic does a much better job at matching the consumer’s lifestyle. Why depend on people tuning in to a specific show at a set hour in order for them to hear your brand story, when with programmatic you can reach them whenever they choose to watch their favorite shows?

More tools for telling stories

Programmatic can also tell deeper and richer brand stories for the simple reason that it has access to a lot more tools and channels.

Imagine if, in the months leading up to the Super Bowl, Budweiser launched a display ad campaign featuring photos of a brood of puppies jumping on a patient older dog, perhaps with a touch of grey around its muzzle. And imagine if users could click to an Instagram feed with daily updates of adorable photos, similar to the Theo & Beau (pictured) thread that went insanely viral (and led to a book deal). By the time the Super Bowl commercial aired – and women recognized the puppy as they one they’ve been following — the impact would have been greater, receiving perhaps 88 million YouTube hits.

And imagine if, post Super Bowl, Budweiser created another Instagram feed, this time showing the puppy’s first year with its new owner, documenting the budding friendship with the horse.

This deeper level, year-round brand storytelling will have more staying power, and will go a long way towards influencing women as they’re in the grocery store deciding which beer to buy. After all, who wouldn’t feel loyal to the puppy/horse/cute-guy – and ultimately — Bud?

Instant Two-Way Engagement

TV is passive; programmatic is anything but. Programmatic marketing supports numerous – and instant – two-way engagement options with prospects. Marketers can prompt users to like them on Facebook, download a coupon, reserve tickets for the next movie showing, or schedule a test drive at local dealership – all with a single click.

TV will always play an important role in the brand marketer’s strategy, and they will continue to invest the bulk of their advertising budgets in the venue. But they can stretch the impact farther by complimenting them with programmatic activities, and build stronger bonds faster.


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