Do Early Peeks at Super Bowl Ads Pay Off?

Read More at: DailyFinance

Not too long ago, companies buying ad time during the Super Bowl — TV’s most expensive commercial venue — sought to keep their game-day commercials secret until air time. The theory was to wow TV audiences with the element of surprise: a funny punch line, a new spokesperson or a catchy song delivered fresh. The goal was to guarantee that the ads would be the subject of office break-room conversation the next day.

But an increasing number of Super Bowl advertisers are now using a strategy that was once anathema: posting their game-day commercials online, well in advance of the game. Their goal: to get consumers talking about their ads not only after the Super Bowl, but sometimes months before kick-off.

That strategy, however, also begs the question of whether consumers actually watch those ads during the game, or do the commercials become just another opportunity to get a fresh beer from the fridge.

“Over time, the stakes have escalated,” says Jon Swallen, Kantar’s senior vice president of research. “One way advertisers try to monetize that is with these pre-game, pre-release ads, trying to raise buzz and awareness. It helps to try to cut through the clutter.”

Increasingly, the name of the marketing game is to tease viewers ahead of game day — with clips or even the entire commercial. While some potential Super Bowl ads are already online, such as those from Pepsi MAX and Doritos, other marketers are still deciding whether to post their commercials early.

Go Daddy, for one, says it’s likely to pre-release one of its two Super Bowl ads before the game, while a second commercial — announcing a new celebrity spokesperson — will be kept under wraps.

Some marketers argue that game-day ratings for a specific commercial may be beside the point. “The biggest thing for us, at least at Pepsico, is about engaging our fans for the prior eight months,” says Rudy Wilson, vice president of marketing at Frito-Lay, a unit of Pepsico (PEP). Wilson pioneered the company’s five-year-old “Crash the Super Bowl” program, which began soliciting consumer-created ads for the upcoming Super Bowl last fall. Of the 10 finalist videos posted on the site, six will air during this year’s game.

Wilson acknowledges that pre-releasing ads may not give them any edge when it comes to their broadcast performance. But the benefit of engaging consumers months in advance makes the contest worth it. “It allows for our success not to be dictated by 30 seconds,” he says.

Pre-Bowl Ad Buzz

The weeks leading up the game are “a unique period in time when audiences around the world are focused on your brand,” says Audi chief marketing officer Scott Keogh, via email. “The lead-up to the Super Bowl can be just as important as game day.”

This year, Audi debuted what it calls a “prelude” to its Super Bowl spot: a minute-long ad based on the children’s book Goodnight Moon. Both the Goodnight ad and the Super Bowl spot feature Audi’s A8 sedan.

By pre-releasing Super Bowl ads, marketers are also able to bring in consumers via social-networking such as Facebook or Twitter. Audi’s social-media campaign last year helped generate 3.1 million Facebook impressions and 3.1 million YouTube views, according to Keogh. And this year, Audi plans to host sponsored messages on Twitter leading up to the game — and to “take over” YouTube’s home page on Super Bowl Sunday, Keogh writes.