Making Every Second, or $100,000, Count
By STUART ELLIOTT
MARKETERS that advertise on the Super Bowl are always seeking more bang for their buck. This year, with each 30-second commercial during the game estimated to cost a record $3 million — yes, $100,000 a second — and the recession threatening to dampen viewer enthusiasm, the sponsors are intensifying efforts to amplify the force of what they plan for Super Bowl XLIII.
“Especially in this economy, people are saying, ‘I’d better get my money’s worth,’ ” said Andrew Graff, president and chief executive at Allen & Gerritsen in Watertown, Mass., which conducts an annual survey online, with New England Cable News, on the Super Bowl spots viewers consider most meaningful.
So a first-time Super Bowl advertiser, the General Electric Company, intends to make its commercial the springboard for an elaborate campaign — in print and online as well as on TV — focused on innovative ideas “now” in areas like energy and the environment.
The campaign, from two Omnicom Group agencies — BBDO Worldwide and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners — promotes G.E. products like Smart Grid energy technology as “innovation you don’t have to wait for” rather than far-off fantasies. The various aspects of the campaign, including digital holograms, online films and a special Web site, are all scheduled to go live on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1.
A returning sponsor, the Coca-Cola Company, is using the Super Bowl to help introduce an “Open happiness” campaign for its flagship soft drink. The campaign, by Wieden & Kennedy, will be supplemented by everything from short spots on “American Idol” to 16-ounce bottles of Coke at lower, recession-friendlier prices of 99 cents each.
In addition to two commercials during the game for Coca-Cola Classic, there will be a Coke Zero spot created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, part of MDC Partners.
Another returning advertiser, the E*Trade Financial Corporation, is surrounding its Super Bowl spot with a variety of Internet initiatives, including some that will begin on Facebook and YouTube (youtube.com/etrade) on Friday and on Twitter early next week.
The E*Trade commercial will bring back a character from two popular spots the company ran in the game last year, a talking baby wise beyond his years. The campaign, which also includes ads in newspapers and movie theaters and on Web sites that range from A (AOL) to Y (Yahoo), is by the Grey New York unit of the Grey Group, owned by WPP.
“It’s more than a 30-second spot,” said Nick Utton, chief marketing officer at E*Trade in New York. “The Super Bowl is part of a total plan.”
“This environment is very different from what it was last year, so we spent a lot of time thinking about this,” he added. “And we’ve done extensive testing to be doubly sure, triply sure, all the elements of the mix are right.”
Similarly, G.E. pondered the decision to make its Super Bowl debut at such a tense moment, said Judy Hu, global executive director for advertising and brand at G.E. in Fairfield, Conn.
One reason the company is going ahead with the campaign, she said, is that it has what she called a “positive, optimistic” spirit. The Super Bowl commercial, by the BBDO New York office, features a song by the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” and concludes with the company’s upbeat “Imagination at work” theme.
“We try never to do depressing commercials,” Ms. Hu said.
Another reason to proceed, Ms. Hu said, is that G.E. wanted to address what company executives perceived as “an impatience” among consumers “to fix things now” in critical realms like reducing energy use.
“Bringing in a new agency was really helpful” in framing the approach, she added, referring to the Goodby, Silverstein work on the digital aspects of the campaign. Among the elements are the holograms and the special Web site, which will be found at plugintothesmartgrid.com.
Goodby, Silverstein was “a recent addition” to the G.E. roster of interactive agencies, which is composed of five or six shops, said Jen Walsh, global director for digital media at G.E.
The coming Super Bowl will be the third year in a row that Coca-Cola is advertising Coke Classic during the game after an absence of almost a decade. Coke Zero, a sugar-free soda, is getting its first Super Bowl berth.
As for the advisability of making so large an ad investment these days, “we know we’re living in challenging times,” acknowledged Joseph V. Tripodi, senior vice president and chief marketing and commercial officer at Coca-Cola. “What people want right now is to step back, pause and refresh a little.”
(Clever marketer that he is, Mr. Tripodi’s remark quoted a famous Coke ad slogan, “The pause that refreshes,” which a rival soft drink, Pepsi-Cola, is echoing in a new campaign of its own, “Refresh everything.” Pepsi-Cola is also likely to advertise during the Super Bowl with one or more commercials from TBWA/Chiat/Day, part of the TBWA Worldwide unit of Omnicom.)
“The cola wars are revved up again in a way they haven’t been in a decade,” said John D. Sicher, at Beverage Digest, a trade publication.
“It’s to the benefit of both companies,” he added, because flagging sales of colas means that “both companies need to talk about the products and convey it’s fun to drink them.”
To that end, Mr. Tripodi said, the idea of the new “Open happiness” campaign for Coke is to offer consumers “more of a call to action” than the previous Coke campaign, which carried the theme “The Coke side of life.” The new ads include paeans to product attributes like refreshment and quenching thirst.
In one spot scheduled for the Super Bowl, insects conspire to swipe a bottle of Coke Classic from a youth sleeping in a park. A second spot, commenting on the popularity of online and onscreen avatars, suggests that a bottle of Coke Classic can restore some human interaction to the interactive world.
Among the other advertisers on Super Bowl XLIII, to be broadcast by NBC, are Anheuser-Busch InBev, Audi, Bridgestone, CareerBuilder, Cars.com, Castrol, Denny’s, DreamWorks Animation, GoDaddy.com, H&R Block, Hyundai Motor, Monster.com, PepsiCo and Teleflora.