PR could be the winning play for companies' Super Bowl ads

It's that time of year again. Though still a few weeks away (and sadly without the New York Giants playing in it), there is plenty of buzz about the Super Bowl, the one day a year when people actually watch commercials.

It's that time of year again. Though still a few weeks away (and sadly without the New York Giants playing in it), there is plenty of buzz about the Super Bowl, the one day a year when people actually watch commercials. Of course, with marketing budgets on the decline and a recession in full swing, it's no wonder that old standbys like FedEx and GM decided not to plunk down the reported $3 million for a 30-second spot. Others, like Denny's, Teleflora, and Pedigree, are choosing this year as the one to make their Super Bowl ad debut. And longtime advertisers, such as Anheuser-Busch, GoDaddy.com, and Pepsi, remain undeterred and will continue making the investment.

“Our theory on advertising is that when the economy is having some issues, that is not the time to cut your advertising budget,” Barb Rechterman, EVP at GoDaddy.com, told CNNMoney.com.

That thinking is certainly commendable, but given the current state of the economy and consumer consumption habits, those companies that do advertise would be wise to do something that is often spoken about, but rarely followed: make PR an integral part of the Super Bowl ad buy.

Sure, there are always articles written about new Super Bowl ads prior to the game, or Monday-morning media coverage of the best and worst ads, but very often that's it. That simply doesn't make it worth the investment. Companies that sponsored the Olympic Games this past summer in Beijing planned integrated campaigns around that expenditure. As such, the Super Bowl ad should be the jumping-off point or apex of a broader campaign.

In 2006, Dove debuted an ad at the Super Bowl to introduce its “Self-Esteem Fund,” an extension of its wildly popular “Campaign for Real Beauty.” The fact that a company like Dove was advertising at all during the Super Bowl garnered a fair amount of media attention prior to the game. More importantly, though, it reinforced the company's message of self-acceptance and provided a centerpiece to an integrated campaign that used the commercial in online video efforts. I don't think the same could be said of GoDaddy.com's yearly attempts at humor. In fact, I am no closer to understanding the Web site's brand today than I was five years ago, when it first started advertising.

Time and time again, we hear from PR pros that the industry has come so far and that it has a “seat at the table.” If that truly is the case, then PR shouldn't be left in the shadow of advertising for football – and marketing's – biggest game of the year.

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