Marketers are preaching that Super Bowl ads are most effective when part of an integrated effort
Despite all the talk about how traditional advertising is declining in effectiveness, there's still at least one day each year where everyone is watching and actually excited to view ads - Super Bowl Sunday.
"One of our biggest struggles in PR is to get a branded message [out] about a company or have people pay attention to what's going on in marketing outside of [those in] the marketing space," says Michael Schiferl, SVP and director of media relations at Weber Shandwick. "[The Super Bowl] is unique because it really has become part of pop culture."
But even with the day-after buzz that accompanies the ads that both worked and flopped, the estimated $2.6 million price tag for a 30-second TV spot is a pretty hefty one to pay if there's no real guarantee of ROI.
To get the most for their money, marketers are increasingly turning up the PR efforts before and after the big game.
Outlets like USA Today and The New York Times, as well as a whole new crop of advertising-specific blogs, have become prime targets for PR pitches in the weeks before the actual game.
"It's one of the rare times... when advertising [leaves] its space," Schiferl adds. "There are always people writing about advertising and marketing, but [around the Super Bowl] it jumps out of its space. We're not just talking to each other about it; we're talking to the world about it."
While pitching the mainstream media about upcoming Super Bowl ads is not entirely new, the past few years have seen the Super Bowl ad as part of a more integrated effort.
"You would never buy a TV commercial for the Super Bowl just for the eyeballs that are watching the Super Bowl because the price value formula doesn't work," says Peter Land, GM of Edelman's sports and sponsorship practice. "It only works if you have other channels behind it."
Land cites last year's spot by Edelman client Dove, which was part of an integrated effort for the Campaign for Real Beauty and highlighted Dove's Self Esteem Fund. The spot garnered pre- and post-game attention for the mere fact that a company like Dove was advertising in the Super Bowl.
In fact, an ad that can be part of a larger story - whether the company's direction
or a marketing or societal trend - can help garner extra attention. Case in point: Chevrolet, Doritos, and the even the NFL have invited consumers to submit ideas - and for Doritos, the actual ad - for their Super Bowl spots.
Brian McCarthy, director of corporate communications for the NFL, acknowledges that the league's decision to outsource the ad idea to the public during a period when everyone is obsessed with consumer-generated content is more than a coincidence. But he views the contest as a focus group into fans' perceptions of the NFL as much as it is an acknowledgement of the new marketing environment.
"The Super Bowl is much more than a three-and-a-half-hour football game. It's
a reflection of American society as it relates to music, sports, and technology," says McCarthy. "The smart companies are those that advertise in the game, but also build an entire campaign in the month leading up to the Super Bowl."
With peripheral mediums like YouTube offering the opportunity for a successful advertisement to be viewed ad infinitum, companies can be confident that a properly run campaign has the legs to transcend one media buy.
"I think the brands that decide to have an integrated campaign that includes a Super Bowl ad will do better than brands that decide to do a Super Bowl ad and build a campaign around it," explains Land. "One 30-second spot is not going to change the world."