Commentary

Winning The Super Bowl -- And Beyond

Who’s going to win the Super Bowl? Taco Bell or E*TRADE? Or both! Wait, which one does Ray Lewis play for?

It’s almost amazing, the fan-like zeal that Super Bowl ads generate among the masses. In a culture fixated on “zapping” ads, or at the very least, relegating them into the background, the Super Bowl is that singular media event where ads actually share the spotlight, rather than borrow it.

It’s a day when the mass of viewers actually savor ads — sharing them, commenting on them and even betting on them – before, during, and after the big game.  

Advertising is not dead, as we all know. But it is evolving at a frenetic pace, in ways that can help brands and the agencies that love them reach the holy perfecta of ROI: achieving brand and sales lift, rather than one or the other.

It’s good news, and yet we expect it to get even better.

Let's win bigger.

Wisely, of late, brands are realizing the value of a Super Bowl ad need not be limited to those magical moments after kicks and between quarters. Looking at the present and future, we expect to see the best brands and agencies taking some or all of the following steps.

Tease the engaged.

Used to be you kept Super Bowl spots in an undisclosed location until air time, guarding its content and strategy like a secret sauce formula. No more. Brands and agencies increasingly are realizing that previewing “teaser” or even entire spots doesn’t detract from an ad’s eventual luster; rather it serves as a form of “romance commerce"

It gives engaged brand fans an early form of currency to share among their friends and family. Primed by movie and gaming premieres and even wireless handset and other tech launches, young consumers in particular have become accustomed to the joys of shared anticipation.

Inspire the first “flick” across multiple media domino chains.

No sooner does a spot drop on YouTube than it hits the corporate Web site, Facebook page and Twitter feed – all of which coincide with the CEOs appearance on morning TV, or the celebrity spokesperson’s late-night interview. Simultaneously, customers are engaged by hashtags, URLs and various virtual and real calls-to-connect, such as app downloads, offline promotions, etc.

Think include, not intrude.

Brands and spots in categories beyond fashion and entertainment are playing in the lifestyle space. If your brand is not suggestive of a lifestyle these days, is it really a brand? Whereas “engagement” has served as our holy grail metric, our notion of engagement is usually temporary, limited to the seconds the spot actually airs.

Going forward, brands should aim at something stronger: partnership. How can we transform consumers into our partners, moving beyond a “make our ad” sweepstakes approach, to a broader “co-create our entire brand experience with us?” 

Have an overarching experience strategy, not just a creative strategy.

There’s almost nothing more exciting than a home run (or touchdown!) piece of creative. Exception: an integrated, consistent customer experience that builds your brand across platforms and channels over time, while inspiring transactions. If your Super Bowl spot isn’t cut from the same cloth as the rest of your calendars, from product development to media and beyond, chances are it will be like a wide-receiver’s highlight-reel catch in a losing effort: talked about by your true fans, but not worthy of a championship.

Winning is determined long after the splash.

At the end of the Super Bowl, we’ll know whether the 49ers or Ravens get a ring. But in our modern media world, it will take far longer to discern who the winners of the ad derby are, as ads’ true resonance in our liquid paid/owned/earned world will emerge more like the rings on a pond. They will continue to emanate long after an initial splash.
From where I sit, that’s a fairly Super proposition.

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