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And Now, An Argument: Pre-Releasing Super Bowl Ads

With the Super Bowl only a few days away, every aspect of the matchup on the field has been ruthlessly dissected, overanalyzed and predicted. Almost equally as important to the action on the field, is the drama that will happen between TV timeouts, namely the commercials. With a record cost of ad placements, the country will be tuned in to watch the best and worst spots and discuss them over bagels at work on Monday morning. One trend that has been picking up steam as of late is the strategy of releasing these marquee spots AHEAD of the big game and seeding them online prior. Is this a good strategy? As in most cases, there's no simple right or wrong answer but an argument to be made for either side. Today, Matt and Ellis defend each point. Rainone: Super Bowl Sunday. Advertisers are paying a ton of money ($3.5million) not just to reach the largest television audience each year, but also to create conversations. What's the big deal if those conversations start the week before? In fact, that's actually more coverage for the brand now as opposed to next week when ALL of the commercials are going to be dissected. Watts: The goal of the spot should depend on the individual advertiser. While some may want the buzziest of buzz, others might simply want tangible results (i.e. sales, drive to web, etc.). While conversations are great, it may not be the end goal. Take for example the 'Old Spice Guy'? campaign. It debuted during the Super Bowl, had TONS of coverage and viral-ness (virality?), but actually didn't quite catapult sales as much as everyone thought as it was supported by an unprecedented, national couponing effort. Another factor here to keep in mind is how that campaign / experience was refreshed with a boatload of great content, not just hammering home the same commercial over and over again. Rainone: If advertisers are confident that they have developed great commercials, it should be good enough the second or third time viewers watch it. Watts: How many times can you realistically expect a viewer to watch a commercial with complete interest and intrigue? It's not like the audience is watching 'Inception'?. While we industry folks may have a romanticized vision of a captive audience getting caught up in the artistry of a :30 second production ' the reality is anything but that outside of Super Bowl Sunday. The GEICO caveman wasn't funny the first time I saw it, and it won't be on the thirtieth, no matter when it airs. Rainone: We also have a bit of a skewed outlook on this since we're in the industry and we're actively searching for the spots. In reality, that the majority of the Super Bowl audience probably hasn't seen the commercial by the time it airs. The ad that's probably getting the most attention this year is the Ferris Bueller/Honda spot. At the moment, it is hovering just under 15 million views if you aggregate views across a few sites. Assuming there's probably going to be almost 100 million more people than that watching the game, it's safe to assume that there's no harm in doing an early release. Watts: I wouldn't look at is as, 'what's the harm?'? but rather, 'how can we make this even better?'? For those that consider an early release, the opportunity to deliver a simple 'refresh'? of the spot, still exists ' that way it's entirely new to new viewers but still rewards those that have seen it. Refreshes can range from introducing a longer spot (from a pre-release :30 up to a :60) with additional scenes and longer narrative to a simple tag that drives online for more info / entertainment. Doritos has been pushing their user-generated 'Crash the Super Bowl'? contest for a couple of years now and it's possible that some of the best entries won't make it to air (or even as finalists). I'm expecting to see a call-to-action somewhere for viewers to go online and view the other finalists. Rainone: What's the worst thing that could happen for advertisers that do pre-release? Someone says 'oh, I've already seen this one'? and then gets up to use the bathroom. What's the net loss in impressions there? 0. The best thing that could happen is that someone says, 'oh, I've already seen this one, you guys, quiet down so you can hear the punch line.'? What's the net gain on that? A fully-attentive audience. Watts: I wouldn't say there's absolute harm in it per se, aside from losing some thunder from the anticipation and reveal when it first runs. With information moving faster than we can even understand, and an era where spoilers are released in the blink of an eye, this shouldn't come as a surprise. You want to consider the worst case scenario? If the Super Bowl no longer becomes about releasing the latest and greatest, the idea of it being an event-within-an-event is lost as well. How intently did you watch the commercials during the AFC Championship? Imagine that same level of bland interest except that the advertisers paid a fortune for that time when you're planning your next trip to the nacho platter / bathroom (not necessarily in that order). Boom. Super Bowl ad dystopia. Terrifying stuff.

Evaluating Creative

When watching TV, reading a magazine or surfing the web, what is it that makes a brand's ad stop a consumer? Like art, it is subjective. While Impressionism may resonate with some, others gravitate towards Abstract and Pop Art. Similarly, the humor in an ad may be what is memorable to one, while others remember the music or unique camera angles. However, just because you remember the ad, doesn't mean that you can recall what brand it was for. When evaluating creative, on a subconscious level, consumers are probably asking themselves the following questions: Does this ad make me laugh? Does the ad evoke an emotional response in me? Do I remember the product? Am I already a fan of the brand? Will I talk about this ad with friends and family? This subject has come up on two different occasions during the past week. Sitting at a bar with friends on Friday night, one member of the group started talking about our favorite ads on the air right now. We all came from different industries ' marketing, consulting, technology. Only a few responses were the same ' Apple, Budweiser, Nike. One friend said Geico. Since there are currently three or four campaigns on the air, I was curious as to which one. His response, all of them. Whether the Cavemen, Gecko or the Rod Serling-esque announcer, he remembered that they were all Geico. And, more importantly, they all made him laugh. Does having that many different campaigns dilute their brand or cause consumer confusion? From my informal focus group of a few, apparently not. While at a TV shoot for one of my clients, we were talking about what a brand needs to do to stand apart from all the clutter in today's marketplace. The oversaturation of marketing messages is much greater today than even a decade ago. What are the campaigns we remember and why. We agreed that the use of music in Apple's iPod ads differentiates them. The PC vs. Mac campaign's simplicity against a white backdrop is now something other brands try to emulate. The Old Spice 'The Man Your Man Can Smell Like'? campaign brings the message to life in a 360 degree way. One thing was certain. As long as the ad reflects a brand's personality, goals and objectives, whether or not it is liked by the public is a matter of personal opinion. Ask the question the next time you are with a group of friends. Their answers might surprise you.

You Got Me

Have you noticed the retro commercials that have been airing during new episodes of Mad Men? In fitting with the 1960's era of the show, they take us back to how products were marketed years ago at an old fashioned ad agency. An indirect result of these ads is that they consistently trip me up while trying to fast forward through the commercials. Like many people, my television watching habits have completely changed since the advent of the DVR. I rarely watch anything 'live'? anymore (with the exception of sports) and I take full advantage of being able to complete an episode faster by skipping through the commercials. But these spots during Mad Men pose an interesting challenge because they look and feel just like the show itself. You stop fast forwarding because you think you're back to the show, until realizing moments later that you're actually watching a commercial. You got me. A tricky, but effective strategy that as a marketer left me wondering, is this the next evolution of product placement? When TiVo first hit the market years ago, marketers feared that combining the ability to skip commercials with consumers' already shortened attention spans might result in the death of the traditional television spot. Years later, product placements are now so commonplace and expected that they've reached the point of annoyance. Consumers are starting to wonder, 'Does my favorite character really love Snapple, as the show creator intended? Or are character preferences now determined by whichever brands are paying to sponsor the show that year?'?  As television producers get more protective over their show's integrity, advertisers may be left to come up with another solution for promoting their clients' brands. If the Mad Men example proves successful, how soon before we see other commercials leveraging the look and feel of the shows that they advertise during?

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