Although a number of the ads at this year's Super Bowl were labeled misogynistic or ageist, others dull, the pre-game chatter was deafening leading up to the big game. This year's 106.5 million viewership made Super Bowl the most watched TV show ever, but it was the PR and buzz around the advertising that proved more successful than the ads themselves.
Controversy swirled around Focus on the Family and Audi of America, while others speculated on what Bud would look like post-acquisition. PepsiCo garnered some of the earliest buzz by taking its soda beverage out of the popular time slot. Other companies like Verizon used offline tactics, such as its FiOS Super Bowl parties, to connect with viewers.
Though Audi's ads received mediocre reviews, and some called the Focus on the Family the least watched ad of the game, what was more interesting to watch was how consumers discussed the brands on social networks before, during, and after. Much of this discussion is fueled by the strategic teasers that brands leak or the complementary PR components that aim to extend the reach of one-day ads. Though Google's ad was well-received, it could have captured a lot more buzz if it leaked the news of its first ad ever a bit before the single tweet announcement.
Anheuser-Busch, for example, used Facebook prior to the Super Bowl, giving fans a chance to vote on which of the five Budweiser ads should appear during the game. While none of the commercials topped lists, the company was engaging with consumers via social media. For a well-known company like Anheuser-Busch, the communications goal is more about engagement than awareness.
Part of Super Bowl advertising has always been the tease, but this year, the creative wasn't as wowing, while PR made the biggest impact around the game. Depending on their goals, brands used PR to get attention prior to the game, kick-off a post-game marketing blitz, or simply to engage with fans, things they aren't able to do with a 30-second spot.