Banned From The Super Bowl, Bud's 'Wardrobe' Spot Functions Online

The Web was abuzz Wednesday with Budweiser's cancelled wardrobe malfunction spot, which told the "real" story behind the most TiVo-ed moment of 2004. The ad, which was supposed to run during the Super Bowl, was pulled for being controversial, and converted instead into a viral ad.

Earlier this month, Fox Television rejected an ad for Airborne, an over-the-counter cold medicine, which featured actor Mickey Rooney having a towel malfunction in a locker room, briefly revealing his bare behind as he runs out.

Companies can capitalize on the publicity garnered from pulling or having a Super Bowl ad rejected using a technique called opportunistic search marketing, said Reprise Media's Managing Partner, Peter Hershberg, and turn interest in too-hot ads into hard sales.

"Companies can get almost as much exposure from not running an ad as they get for running an ad," said Hershberg. "If they understand the power of search."

By buying sponsored links to Google ad words like "super bowl ads" and their own company names, companies are able to capitalize on controversies, flaps, and kerfuffles that come up around Super Bowl ads, which frequently push the envelope.

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The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for example, last year had their 70s porn-themed ad-- which made the claim that meat causes impotence--rejected. The ad was circulated on the Internet, however--the natural search results for "superbowl ad" places the ad second, and a sponsored link appears for the search "superbowl ads."

Buying sponsored links and building organic search presence, Hershberg said, can convert an ad campaign that, for whatever reason, didn't end up running into an online campaign that helps build a brand's visibility.

However, search engine visibility is important for any ad campaign, Hershberg said, especially if a company is planning to lay down the $2 million plus a Superbowl ad runs these days.

Hershberg cited the AT&T M-Life service as an example of an ad campaign that could have used better search engine visibility coupled with its kick-off campaign in 2002. "In 2002 AT&T launched M-Life with a series of Superbowl ads," Hershberg said. "There was a ton of buzz, but the commercials provided very little insight into what the service actually does."

When AT&T's customers then took to the Internet, Hershberg said, there was little information to be had on M-Life, because no sponsored links had been purchased, and search engine crawlers had yet to cache the pages AT&T had put up to describe the service. Hershberg said that if AT&T had purchased sponsored links or allowed its organic search engine visibility to increase before the ads ran, the campaign would have met with much more success.

Reprise Media intends to advise its clients to make sure that any ad campaigns that they run are supported by their search engine visibility. "The last thing we want to do is [get] our client to spend a lot of money launching a product or service and then find that their customers actually can't get to their Web site," Hershberg said.

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