Super Bowl 50 is two weeks away, but for many advertisers, the digital pregame is about to begin with a barrage of online teaser videos culminating in the full commercial reveal before the big game.
With ads running at a reported $5 million per 30-second spot – the most expensive airtime in TV history – marketers are increasingly relying on digital platforms and promotions to get their money’s worth. Building anticipation and buzz online has become as important to advertisers as the game itself, annually the most watched event in television and the highest-profile stage for their commercials.
Coming up with a spot that has people talking the day after at the water cooler and on social media is the goal.
“It used to be you just had to worry about creating a great piece of advertising,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who heads up an annual Super Bowl Advertising Review. “Now you have to create great advertising, but you also need to put together an entire integrated marketing campaign around the advertising.”
The Super Bowl will be played on Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and televised on CBS, which for the first time will simulcast the commercials during a free live stream of the game. That will help advertisers capture an increasingly fragmented video audience, even for the ultimate live TV event.
Last year, Super Bowl XLIX on NBC drew a record 114.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen, as the New England Patriots sealed a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks with a last-minute end zone interception. NBC’s free live stream of the game averaged 800,000 online viewers, according to Adobe Analytics.
Online viewership is likely to go up as a growing number of pay-TV viewers cut the cable cord for Internet video streaming services. Last year, nearly 4.9 million U.S. households dropped pay TV services, according to research firm eMarketer, which projected one in five households will not subscribe to cable or satellite TV by 2018.
Tim Hanlon, Chicago-based managing director in the media and entertainment practice of FTI Consulting, called the commercial simulcast a smart move by CBS, which has been staking out online turf with its own streaming service.
“CBS protects itself from any challenge to the idea that there are certain audiences watching that are not counted or not seeing the advertising,” Hanlon said.
The TV audience is still expected to be huge for the big game, which is ditching Roman numerals for its golden anniversary, opting instead for the moniker Super Bowl 50.
Super Bowl ad pricing has increased by 76 percent over the last decade, making it the most expensive commercial time on TV by far, according to Kantar Media. The volume of commercials clocks in at 47 minutes of ad time in each of the last six Super Bowls, rivaling the actual game. Other trends include long-form commercials, with nearly 40 percent of the ads running 60 seconds or longer in recent games. The top five Super Bowl advertisers since 2005 are Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Chrysler and General Motors.
Back for its second Super Bowl, Wix.com, a Web development company based in Israel, bypassed ad agencies and partnered directly with movie studio DreamWorks Animation to create its commercial. The company has released the first of several planned video teasers featuring characters from the upcoming movie “Kung Fu Panda 3” building a website to promote a noodle business. The company is planning to unveil the Super Bowl spot several days before the game.
“The Super Bowl is the biggest stage for great advertising, and it is critical to make sure you produce an ad that both entertains and represents your brand, but it doesn’t have to be the only part of your campaign,” said Omer Shai, chief marketing officer of Wix.com. “By producing lots of interesting, entertaining and engaging content of all sorts, we can maximize our investment in this process and help bring the Wix brand to the widest possible audience.”
Ad themes will be revealed during the next few weeks.
“I think we’ll see some humor, but I don’t think that’s going to be the dominant theme,” Calkins said. “These companies want to launch campaigns on the game, and humor can be tough to build a campaign around.”
Calkins also expects companies to avoid controversial themes in light of the fallout from last year’s Nationwide ad, where a child talked about all the things he would miss because he died in an accident, prompting the insurance company to post a response to the “fierce conversation” started by its Super Bowl ad.
“I do think companies are going to try to be very safe this year,” Calkins said. “All of the Super Bowl advertisers are very aware of what happened to Nationwide last year, and that’s going to have an impact on what we see this year.”
The most excitement may be what plays out over the next few weeks, as advertisers pull out all the stops to get noticed in advance of the Super Bowl, where distractions abound and some viewers may actually be paying attention to the football game itself.