I Don't Usually Watch Advertising, But When I Do...

No, I did not watch the Super Bowl. I have actually never, ever watched the Super Bowl. To help you understand why the Super Bowl is just a cultural challenge too far for me as a Johnny Foreigner, I refer to John Oliver’s brilliant explanationon David Letterman’s show last week.

But I have watched all the ads, because they are all online, many even well before the Super Bowl actually happened. Some of them were hilariously entertaining (Snickers ‘ Brady Bunch commercial), some were wonderful tear-jerkers (Budweiser’s puppy), some were an enormous waste of talent (Nationwide with Mindy Kaling AND Matt Damon and still it was forgettable), and some just downright 1979 (Carl’s Jr.).

For years we have lambasted ourselves as an industry regarding the enormous cost of both production as well as airtime for these ads. It is probably fair to guesstimate that the average cost this year ran anywhere between $7 million to over $10 million. The reach of that spot is obviously enormous. And sure, many spots are used for a period of time following the Super Bowl, and some spots generate enormous numbers of views on YouTube. But still…



Over the last decade or so we’ve touted the virtues of integrated marketing: true ROI for this type of investment would be accomplished if marketers only stretched the impact and story-telling components of the Super Bowl extravaganza to before and after the actual Super Bowl, across a variety of touch points. I am pretty sure I have made statements like this myself in the past.

And I am here to tell you that I think we got that idea all wrong.

A Super Bowl ad should not be extended into a months-long storytelling exercise. Most consumers do not care about the back story, the extended version or the bloopers. They care probably even less about the corresponding Facebook page, the Twitter hashtag or any other invitation to interact with your $7 million to $10-smillion-plus investment.

I propose a change in tactics. A Super Bowl spot should be marketed as if it were a blockbuster movie. The movie industry is quite smart today, treating the launch of a blockbuster like the launch of a new brand aimed at a mass audience (or line extension, if the movie is part of a franchise). The focus is solely on driving audiences to see it.

The movie industry seems to drop the marketing effort of any given movie about two weeks into its release, or sometimes less. They then rely mostly on word of mouth (including social media chatter) and movie listings, it seems.

This is what we should do with Super Bowl commercials: Drive the audience to the big release and let word of mouth do the talking from there onwards. We should obviously continue to use the commercial on TV and online; that’s like having our movie in theaters.

It seems that some brands are already trying this approach. Coca-Cola and others actually did not release full commercials online prior to the event, but shared short teasers (in movie language: trailers) to warm up the audience.

So there, a rethink of Super Bowl advertising. Now all you need is a great movie -- er, commercial. That may actually be as hard as creating a blockbuster movie.

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