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MARKETING

Super Bowl ads playing overtime

January 31, 2008|Alana Semuels | Times Staff Writer

How do you make sure that millions of tipsy Americans will pay attention to your multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad? Show it before the Super Bowl. And after the Super Bowl. And, of course, during the Super Bowl.

Advertisers are jostling for attention for their spots like never before, posting them online in advance of Sunday's kick-off, unveiling them at news conferences, screening them at cocktail parties and releasing behind-the-scenes videos about the ads' production.

"For that amount of money, they want to get more bang out of it," said Neil Burns, professor of advertising at the University of Texas at Austin.

The early unwrapping of a commercial slated to run during the most watched TV show of the year, one known for its often innovative advertising, will grab free publicity (witness this article) and may get people talking.

"We wouldn't do a Super Bowl ad at that cost if we weren't looking for some great buzz from it," said Jake Jacobson, a spokesman for Garmin International Inc., which makes global positioning system devices. The company held a news conference at Gotham Hall in New York on Wednesday to introduce its ad (a vintage car tears through the streets of Paris, guided by a Garmin device, and when the car stops, Napoleon gets out) and posted teasers for it on its blog.

Jacobson acknowledged a downside, at least for Super Bowl ad fans.

"It's lost a little bit of the suspense," he said.

But it's good for business. Research firm Cision said in a recent report that "news about the advertising . . . can extend the marketing reach tenfold." Cision said broadcast TV stations aired 6,663 news stories about Super Bowl ads in 2006 -- up from 463 in 2002.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. received $25 million worth of free publicity by releasing its ad (which starred Kevin Federline) in advance of last year's game, said Barbara Lippert, a critic for Adweek magazine.

Cision said that for PepsiCo Inc., the value of its Diet Pepsi ad being mentioned in TV news reports before Super Bowl XL in 2006 was $12.3 million.

"We give out most of our Super Bowl ads early to the press because the media attention on the commercials is usually quite high," said Dave DeCecco, a spokesman for Pepsi.

Among the brands whose spots you can view online now: PepsiCo, Garmin International, PepsiCo and Unilever. Hyundai Motor Co. is distributing its ad to media today and posting it on its consumer website Saturday. Audi will allow people to watch its spot online a few hours before the game.

Teasers or snippets of many other offerings are also available online, from companies including Under Armour, Planters, Gatorade, and Bridgestone Firestone North America.

The athletic apparel company Under Armour, which is launching its first-ever non-cleated sneaker line with its Super Bowl spot, saw increased Web traffic and received inquiries about the shoes after the release of a teaser, a spokesman said.

The teasers feature athletes Jen Hudak, Vernon Davis and Carl Edwards, but not the shoes themselves -- viewers won't see those until the game unless they're invited to the ad's premiere at Maxim's Super Bowl party in Phoenix on Friday.

Even companies patiently waiting until Sunday are trying to get more mileage.

"In the past, the buzz was about how entertaining the ads would be," said Thomas Boyd, a sports marketing professor at Cal State Fullerton. "This year, it seems like it's just about the fact that they're advertising."

Or not advertising, as the case may be. Weatherproof Garment Co. sent out a news release Tuesday boasting that it would "make television and advertising history" by airing the shortest TV commercial of all time during the Super Bowl. Minutes later, the company sent out a retraction, saying that it learned that time slots were unavailable.

"It's an exciting concept, the two-second spot," said company President Freddie Stollmack, who said that a misunderstanding led to the release being sent without advertising time first being secured. "We thought we would get some PR exposure out of it."

Every year, online domain licensing site GoDaddy.com makes a point of producing an ad that the network declines as too racy, and then invites viewers to go to its website to see it. GoDaddy then makes another ad that actually appears during the Super Bowl.

The accepted by Fox for this year's game shows an employee watching the rejected GoDaddy ad on a computer while other people watch TV, and cuts to a sultry image of race car driver Danica Patrick, a GoDaddy spokeswoman, unzipping her jacket. (The rejected ad featured Patrick and a beaver, according to Advertising Age, which provided no more details.)

Doritos, which led the charge on consumer-generated ads last year, hosted a contest this year that asked bands and singers to submit original songs. People voted online for their favorites, and a professionally produced video of the winner will air during the Super Bowl.

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