Beyond The Super Bowl

As the post-Super Bowl analysis turned this week from which team won the big game to which brands won big, we were once again reminded of the Super Bowl's role as the year's single most important advertising. While the commercials have understandably been the focus of conversation over the past several days, the Super Bowl also offers online marketers some important lessons that help illustrate the changing media dynamics taking place.

Despite a consumer's endless number of programming options, large, cultural events like the Super Bowl still matter. These events attract mass audiences, and more importantly, they attract consumer mindshare, which can extend well beyond the event itself. The good news for online marketers is that people are increasingly turning to the Internet for coverage of these events, and audience size and engagement is beginning to reach -- and sometimes exceed -- that of the original broadcast.

Advertisers are taking note, and now plan significant online campaigns associated with these events. Brands that were already advertising during the Super Bowl, such as Go Daddy.com and E*Trade, supplemented their TV buy with robust online campaigns, providing an important opportunity to extend the brand experience and solidify engagement with the consumer. Other brands elected to focus their efforts and spend online rather than on TV.



For example, TurboTax capitalized on the buzz of the game by advertising online leading up to and throughout Super Bowl weekend with a rich media TurboTron unit that captured consumers' attention through its football-themed content. Designed to look like a scoreboard, TurboTron was hosted by ESPN personality Chris Berman, and offered an impressive level of interactivity with a variety of tax tools and live community support. The timely and culturally relevant concept behind the campaign, combined with its practical features and mass reach, represented a powerful and unique way for TurboTax to stay top-of-mind with consumers as tax season approaches.

Don't get me wrong. Super Bowl ads, in general, represent some of the highest quality creative in all of advertising, but as online publishers enhance the ad formats and technologies available to marketers, the creative potential of online advertising becomes almost limitless. The idea of offering advertisers a more robust advertising experience through technology and formats may not be new to the industry, but as advertisers begin to invest more heavily in the development of their online creative, we will see its potential more fully realized.

The Super Bowl offers a great opportunity for publishers to help improve the creative canvas for marketers, ensuring that they have an opportunity to create their own Super Bowl-sized moments online. It's why we recently adopted OPA standard ad units, formats advanced by the Online Publishers Association that allow for high-quality online content. The OPA units, used by some of the nation's leading brands, offer an additional tool through which marketers can take an important step beyond simple brand recognition and develop more meaningful, emotional connections with their target audiences.

Imagine the big game without the commercials: they have become such an integral part of the event, many would not even tune in without them, teaching us an important lesson about the value of good creative: advertising is key to the overall consumer experience. As marketers, we should all aspire to this kind of creative excellence; and as online marketers, we should always remember that the ads on our pages are part of the experience -- and not stand-alone pixels on a page. As we improve the advertising experience on our sites, we also improve the overall consumer experience.

It would be impossible for me to conclude a column about the lessons of Super Bowl advertising without also mentioning that $3 million is still a lot of money! Again, I completely understand the value to brands participating in our industry's annual showcase, and for many this price tag makes perfect sense. But think about the fact that $3 million can now deliver Super Bowl-sized audiences online, with more targeted, recurrent messaging and unmatched creative potential.

As a number of America's biggest brands have already realized, the emergence of online advertising, with its targeted scale, creativity and cost-effectiveness, has opened up a world of possibilities for advertisers available not only for the Super Bowl, but 365 days a year.

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