For years now, one of the central changes that’s been happening in the ad industry—or, a change that the industry has been trying to effect—has been the shift from the notion of making ads (that is, one-off messages that run for a short, pre-determined period of time) to the idea of making content, and having an ongoing conversation with consumers. You can see that evolution reflected in Super Bowl commercials.
Everyone (including us) has been discussing the Amazing Expanding Super Bowl Commercial—the phenomenon whereby marketers are using the mass broadcast event as a focal point around which they are building larger, longer social media and video initiatives. Brands want to make hay while people are actively paying attention to ads, of course, and to make the most of a big ($3.5-$4 million dollars just for media) investment. But the shift from Super Bowl spot to Super Bowl campaign is part of that bigger move toward always-on content.
Most of the advertisers in this year’s Super Bowl either posted their game spot online before the game, or created a bespoke teaser spot, or both. And just about every brand had a social media play.
Coca-Cola orchestrated a participatory campaign where fans could choose the outcome of the brand’s Super Bowl film. Last year, Coke made a splash with the social-media-driven "Polar Bowl," campaign. Audi has used Twitter hashtags and audience feedback over the last three Super Bowls—this year with its #BraveryWins initiative which also allowed viewers to weigh in on the automaker’s ad ("Prom," which ended up being one of the more popular spots in the game). Calvin Klein went full Vine with its eye-popping Super Bowl star, Matthew Terry. Budweiser launched its Twitter feed (yes, the brand just started tweeting right before this year’s big game) with an invitation for followers to name the company’s new Clydesdale foal, who would play a role in the excellent game-day spot, "Brotherhood." And on it goes.
Oreo, which had been winning hearts and minds with a social-media-driven initiative over the last year (the "Daily Twist" campaign which saw the brand create Facebook posts/ads based on current events) grabbed the internet’s attention during the Super Bowl power outage with a blackout-themed tweet, turned around on the fly (read about how they did it in the slide show).
And the Oreo tweet is a great symbol of the shift toward constant content creation, instead of just advertising.
On one hand, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a swing back to revealing the main ads during the game (is there a point at which the networks start to get shirty about previews? If more and more of the viewers who watch the game for the ads have already seen all the ads, does that present an audience dissipation issue? So far, available wisdom suggests there’s no impact on in-game viewing). But even if some marketers veer away from revealing their big ad beforehand, the idea of creating a larger campaign around the Super Bowl will endure.
In the end, though, whatever the strategy, whenever brands unleash their ads, the key is making content that people want to watch, interact with and share.
In the slide show above, our picks for the brands who did that best.
See the rest of the Super Bowl spots here.