At the risk of becoming the (m)asshole that can’t help herself from writing about a championship game when Boston is playing… this week’s Super Bowl has me thinking about more than whether the Patriots can win their 6th ring.All fandom aside, traditionally there are two types of Super Bowl viewers - those there to watch the game and those there for the commercials. I’m personally in the football camp (save for a few classic commercials like this one). However, as a marketer, I find it impossible not to also be intrigued by the strategy behind one of, if not, THE biggest advertising event of the year.While some claim that traditional media channels like television, radio, and print are dead - I strongly, wholeheartedly disagree. Yes, this is the age of digital - but digital has also consistently proven to pack the biggest punch when it’s part of a larger, omni-channel marketing strategy.And this, my friends, is something the brands spending a heart-palpitating $5 Million on Super Bowl ads understand.
The Mousetrap Analogy
Anyone remember the board game Mousetrap? That super frustrating game with a million individual pieces that, when set up correctly, you dropped a silver ball down the path and it should follow every twist and turn to trap the mouse?
First off, did this game EVER work for anyone? But second of all - does this not feel like every online path to purchase today? Like the board game, advertising campaigns are a maze of digital touchpoints and personalization. This makes strategy critical to driving a brand’s message, conveying a consistent experience, and nurturing customers throughout the buying journey.And bringing it back to the Super Bowl - last year’s game amassed an audience of 103.4 Million total viewers. For brands that are creating Super Bowl commercials, then doubling down with a digital strategy - they’re reaping the benefits of amplifying their exposure and increasing their odds of “trapping the mouse”.
Digital = A Wider Audience and More Data
The merging of online and offline marketing strategy does more than increase the longevity of ads and reinforce messaging - it also casts a wider net and ensures brands hit a variety of demographics. With groups like Millennials preferring YouTube two to one over traditional television, it’s no wonder that 2018 Super Bowl ads generated more than 84 Million views across YouTube and Facebook on game day… plus an estimated 805.7 Million social impressions.And it’s not just about re-watching commercials afterwards, brands are using video and social to build anticipation for the game. For example, this year, Pringles came out with three teasers for their Super Bowl ad featuring “an emotional smart device”:
Social has also continued to play a big role in Super Bowl advertising by proving to heighten ad visibility and give brands the opportunity to be a part of the online conversation. Last year social media platforms started offering a unique array of Super Bowl ad data. Twitter used real-time insights to show brands exactly how their Super Bowl content resonated with audiences. For example, Verizon had “12,455 tweets with sentiments being 75% positive, 15% neutral, and 10% negative”.Now, we’re not just talking about how digital both increases exposure and word of mouth for these commercials, but also how it taps into an entirely new set of data to measure.At the end of the day, it’s hard to argue that the addition of digital strategies, like video and social, unquestionably provide a lot more mileage to the traditional use of a commercial.
The ROI on a $5 Million Commercial
I recently read a line in the Observer that hit home for me as to why so many advertisers are willing to make huge investments in Super Bowl ad spots: “The Super Bowl is simply too big to fail”.And with everyone measuring their ROI differently, Jeff Nicholson, from VaynerMedia summed up (what I imagine is) the thought process behind most brands, saying: “You have 15-30 seconds to speak to the entire country - was that the best use of your time?” That seems like (excuse the pun) the $5 Million dollar question… My opinion? A one off-commercial… not really. But weave in an arsenal of digital channels to intensify the impact of that 15-30 second commercial and the answer is absolutely yes - worth it.The majority of successful ads take a product and make it personal. Add in the ability to make it shareable across the largest, most captive audience of the year... and you’ve got a viral ad that has the potential to exceed the wildest of expectations. Kinda like the Patriots….