Commentary

The Super Bowl Risk-Taking Was Limited To The Field

From the land of rain and coffee, where the caffeine was never more welcome following a sleepless night, I can think of nothing other than risk-taking.

On Sunday, the hometown Seattle Seahawks took a huge chance and committed one of the biggest sins in sports history. They went away from what got them to the Super Bowl. The results, by now, are well-known and causing angst in the Emerald City.

Conversely, Super Bowl telecast advertisers took no chance and presented spots as if it was 1977, showing us puppies and Snickers transformations, while ignoring the fact that more than 100 million had a mobile phone in their hand.

Seek out sports radio or the newspaper columnists for more on the unforgiveable play call that cost the Seahawks the championship.

This space is to consider why advertisers paying $4.5 million for 30 seconds again ran commercials that lacked mobile calls to action.

Yes there were messages that were mobile-related — save your data, power your phone, buy the coolest mobile game, for example. But these were not interactive. We weren’t asked to do anything. It was as if advertisers believed that we were asked to check our wireless devices at the door.

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And, while not on par with the Seahawks’ decision to throw the ball from the 1-yard line, the thinking by brands is flawed. I’ve waited eight years to see an advertiser build an opt-in database through a call-to-action that need only be a small part of a commercial. On single days other than Super Sunday, we have seen more than 100,000 respond to a TV pitch and opt-in for ongoing communication with brands.

My belief is that with the right trigger, a Super Bowl spot lives on well beyond the stench of uneaten wings and putrid play calls. It isn’t hard to imagine such a continuation from set of this year’s commercials.

What if in the last seconds of the ad that was instantly beloved, Budweiser urged touched viewers to save a dog and provided a keyword and short code to be contacted after the game? Don’t you think the emotional string pulled would’ve resulted in pet adoptions?

And through the voice of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Carnival inspired us to go to sea on one of its cruises. How about getting us to our mobile devices to see more or to obtain an offer? I didn't expect to see a mobile phone in the TurboTax commercial with the Tea Party content, but we would've remembered it. In 2015, you can file your taxes via mobile, no?

Other commercials, including one for Snickers that featured 1970s’ characters from the Brady Bunch, disappointed. And for no other reason than they were as predictable as a Bill Belichick scowl at a news conference.

From Richard Ting, EVP, Global Chief Experience Officer, of R/GA, who tweeted via @flytip: “Snickers ad was clearly byproduct of  “old advertising folks. The multi-culti 15-24 y.o. demographic just completely missed that reference.”

So, what, if anything, will make Super Bowl advertisers get more progressive? Leading marketers have told me not to hold my breath. Super Sunday is a day for “brand anthems,” not mobile calls to action, they say.

To me, it gets back to the question of risk.

The Seahawks have justifiably been excoriated for taking too much of a goal-line chance and blowing the chance for a title. 

Just what would advertisers lose if they took the last three seconds of a commercial to add a call to action for viewers to use their phones? What’s the worst that could happen? No one would respond.

These are questions that I have been asking for nearly a decade. To those of us who believe in mobilized marketing, there’s more left to ponder than whether Marshawn Lynch should’ve had the ball in the decisive moment of Super Bowl XLIX.

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