Many years ago, a new trend in the illustrious history of Super Bowl advertising seemed to have emerged: Advertise that your brand was going to advertise during the game.
We observed that brands seemed to be investing increasing time and expense in pre-game promotional efforts with contests, sweepstakes, and digital campaigns full of teasers about a forthcoming Super Bowl ad.
Generally speaking, the big reveal of the commercial wasn’t until game day. Though sometimes leaks occurred, the audience was still compelled to watch the game on TV.
At the time, we wondered, given all investment companies were putting into getting viewers excited about looking for a commercial—not to mention on the air time during the broadcast—why most of the brands that advertised weren’t putting equal emphasis on getting the best dang commercial on-air.
For reasons that still remain unclear to us, the prevailing opinion among many advertisers was that the Super Bowl was not the place to offer any sort of compelling reason-to-buy message.
Just before the 2006 game, for instance, “the ad world’s most experienced and most Super Bowl-savvy advertising executives,” went on record telling the USAToday that companies SHOULD NOT spend $80 grand per second to actually sell anything because, frankly, selling something has become “almost taboo” during the Super Bowl.
“The game is great for bolstering a brand’s image,” explained Nina DiSesa, then the chairman and chief creative officer of McCann-Erickson, “but not to nail the sale.”
Fast-forwarding to 2012, it was hard to say after watching the ads last Sunday that prevailing opinion on actually trying to sell someting has changed much.
Nor has the emphasis on pre-game activities to “leverage” the relationship with the game and generate interest in watching a brand’s Super Bowl ad.
What struck us as strange–and frankly a little mysterious–was what seemed like the relative unimportance of the game’s TV broadcast to many advertisers.
Rather than wait for a big reveal during the game, many companies released their Super Bowl spots online well ahead of time. As Matt Roush commented in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, “The impact of even the better commercials was largely blunted by so many of them being leaked and disseminated online in advance….The internet once again trumped TV on one of TVs bigger nights.”
Many of the commercials themselves were more “calls to action” to forget about watching the game, just go tweet about the commercial or watch the Coke polar bears on your iPad instead.
Pay $3.5 million for the privilege of advertising during the game’s TV broadcast, but discourage viewer involvement with the program. There just seems to be something wrong with this picture.
Like dutiful children who make it all the way until Christmas morning without peaking at their presents, we actually held out until the game’s broadcast to see what advertisers had in store for us.
After so many years of disappointment, we can’t say our expectations were too high–which turned out to be a good thing.
Audi’s spot selling super bright headlights—a feature the brand has inexplicably focused on in its recent advertising in general—had us scratching our heads. Sure, it broke ranks and was actually trying to sell something, but bright headlights?
H&M’s spot showcasing a muscled David Beckham in his skivvies was another strange one. We weren’t exactly clear to whom the ad was targeted. If it was one for the ladies, we might have suggested something other than tighty whities as the product to feature.
Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” spot was a complete mystery. For the first half of the commercial, we wondered what brand—if any—was behind it. Had the City of Detroit bought an ad? Did GM, Ford, and Chrysler get together to push buying American?
While we felt proud of ourselves for catching the pop culture reference about Words with Friends, the Best Buy ad was a bit of a stretch to us.
We didn’t quite follow the relationship between all the inventors and going to Best Buy to buy a phone and select a mobile service provider. Having had a hard time getting any help or “objective” advice when we’ve gone to Best Buy stores in recent months, we also questioned the credibility of the sales pitch.
In short, we weren’t overly impressed by any of this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads. There were no big winners.
The best we can say is there’s always next year.