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Why Creative Is Still King Of The Super Bowl

January 30, 2013

superbowlWe just read this Forbes article, thought you’d find it interesting given this weekend’s exciting event! Of course we watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, it’s our job!
This article is by Peter Daboll, CEO, Ace Metrix.

We have been evaluating the impact of ads for some time now–some 30,000 of them—and we’ve seen a variety of creative concepts come and go with each Super Bowl. Some brilliant, memorable and now part of pop culture. Some mediocre and forgettable. Some downright terrible. This year’s creative concept/theme is the growing application of social media in the development, support and scripting of ads.  It’s not entirely new–there have been “social hobbyists” for a few years now. But what is new is that most brands are now dabbling in this cross-media experimentation in some form or another.

While this trend is interesting, social media’s impact is still quite small compared to the nearly 100+ million people expected to tune in on Sunday. Feedback and engagement using social media is tied inextricably to the television commercials themselves, and no matter what approach an advertiser may use, creative matters. Great creative drives social interaction; social interaction does not create great ads. 

The cost is what drives many marketers to work to “extend” the effort both prior to the game with teasers, during the game with contests and integrated social elements, and after the game with long-tail efforts.

This year’s line up is employing a variety of approaches that impact their creative with social interaction:

  • Content Creation – Doritos invented the concept of crowdsourcing creative for the Super Bowl and has earned the top ad from the game for two years running. The approach works because Doritos is a well-known brand, and they generate millions of votes – ensuring they don’t have the “shrill voice” (loud but not necessarily right) problem that often plagues social-media metrics.
  • Audience Participation – This concept has grown considerably over the last year, and we will see several audience participation angles, from Coke’s and Audi’s “vote the ending” commercials­, to Pepsi’s halftime photo-sharing experiment­, to Pizza Hut’s “Hut Hut Hut” collaboration, to Lincoln’s script-writing exercise. These seek to drive more “investment” in the creative, building hype prior to the game.  It is worth noting, however, that brands have not given up any creative control, they have simply chosen to “curate” on a mass scale – the creative concept and execution remain firmly in their grasp. Insider’s tip: Coke will beat out Pepsi in both creative scores and social engagement. Letting consumers choose an ending is a great idea—particularly with every one of the endings already approved by the CMO.
  • Online Interaction – This ‘lowest risk’ approach simply uses a separate Twitter or Facebook campaign to engage fans. Last year’s contribution included Audi’s #solongvampires and Bud Light’s LMFAO halftime lead in. Of course, ALL Super Bowl ads are on YouTube, and can boast “earned media” views.

While approaches may differ, one thing remains constant: The Super Bowl is a harrowing experience for a CMO. At $3.8 million for a 30-second spot, it generates a spotlight on the marketing department’s performance that rivals the size of the Super Bowl audience. Anything that can extend those precious 30 seconds is a win. To that end, we have already seen a third of the advertisers leak their commercial or drop a teaser – some as early as the first week of January.

What matters most, however, is the creative. It always comes back to that. Great creative will drive YouTube views, Facebook likes and buzz metrics. If the creative doesn’t work or offends (and yes, we have all seen offensive Super Bowl ads), then social-media integration is like putting gas on a fire. But for the great creative Pro Bowlers, great creative drives social interaction – not the other way around. 

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