Carmakers expand news cycle for Super Bowl ads

Brands are making their internal PR teams and agency partners a bigger part of their Super Bowl plans, lengthening the news cycle for their ads and taking advantage of consumer enthusiasm on social media.

Brands are making their internal PR teams and agency partners a bigger part of their Super Bowl plans, lengthening the news cycle for their ads and taking advantage of consumer enthusiasm on social media.

Hyundai, Honda, and Pizza Hut, all of which are running ads during this Sunday's NFL championship game, will have special teams in place to respond to comments made on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

“For advertisers, Super Bowl Sunday is not a day off anymore,” says Chris Hosford, executive director of corporate communications at Hyundai Motor America.

The automaker will air two ads during the game that will focus on the brand's performance characteristics. For the first time, top Hyundai executives, including those in PR and marketing, will convene to watch the game, monitor online chatter and media coverage, and interact with fans on social media via at least a dozen computer and TV screens.

“We want to make sure we're part of the social media conversation," explains Hosford.

The automaker expects plenty of consumer response on Super Bowl Sunday, although the spots were “pre-released” on YouTube on Monday. That strategy enabled Hyundai to pitch media outlets earlier than usual. The company generated 52 million media impressions five days before kickoff.

“It earned us the right to play in a news cycle that is extending further every year,” explains Kevin Oates, VP and group manager at Ketchum, the company's PR AOR. “There has always been an incredible run-up to the Super Bowl. It used to be about a week, and now it feels like a month.”

The most expensive ad during this year's Super Bowl, which pits the New England Patriots against the New York Giants, cost $4 million. More than 163 million total viewers reportedly watched 2011's Super Bowl XLV.

Although there is some debate about whether the pre-release tactic actually diminishes the momentum of a buzz-worthy ad, other automotive companies such as Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen also released their Super Bowl ads early on YouTube.

Toyota posted its spot for the 2013 Lexus GS on YouTube on Monday. It also announced the ad at a November press event and released a teaser spot on January 17.

“Once ads run during the Super Bowl, the story becomes all about ad tracking,” says Nancy Hubbell, prestige communications manager at Lexus. “By releasing the ad early, we could also talk about the strategy behind the ad.”

Toyota also worked with 18 technology bloggers to create a three-month contest on their sites before the game. The automaker will fly the bloggers to Las Vegas this weekend for a Super Bowl party and to test drive the vehicle. Toyota's Lexus luxury car division works with GolinHarris.

While Hubbell recognizes the argument of some critics who say an ad won't create as much buzz on game day if consumers have already seen it, he explains, “We've seen data that shows if people are familiar with an ad, they'll actually pay more attention to it when it airs.”

The impact of social media and the growing window for coverage also means PR agencies have to collaborate more with other firms.

“We're working more closely with ad agencies and digital teams on Super Bowl campaigns,” says Lisa Kovitz, EVP and media strategist for consumer at Edelman New York. Edelman is supporting clients, including Dannon, on its Super Bowl initiatives. “The PR approach has to be more holistic.”

Pizza Hut has launched its largest PR effort to date for Super Bowl XLVI, including a celebrity spokesperson, infographics, and media outreach for a user-generated TV spot that will premiere during the game.

The restaurant chain partnered with Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who spoke to the media about his experience as a former Pizza Hut delivery driver. To help with media pitches, Pizza Hut also created infographics about game-day pizza orders, such as the total amount of marinara sauce that consumers will use.

“We get questions every year from the media about the fact that it is our busiest day of the year,” says Chris Fuller, Pizza Hut's director of PR. “So for us, the challenge was keeping the content fresh.”

Zeno Group developed the campaign for Pizza Hut, which has also assembled a social media team for Sunday's game. More than 20 staffers from its corporate headquarters will make up the “Big Game Squad.”

“We'll be canvassing every aspect of social media,” says Fuller. “We want to ensure anyone talking about the brand gets some kind of answer from us.”

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