LONDON (AdAge.com) -- U.K. marketers are teaming up with traditional media to create ads that play off just-ended World Cup games in an attempt to grab the attention of millions of soccer fans glued to the broadcasts.
Molson Coors' Carling lager has broken new ground, finalizing TV spots with lightning speed that include final scores and run immediately after the match ends.
The Carling spots show a group of men in the desert, waiting for their friend to arrive from afar on his camel to tell them the soccer results. They end with the line, "You know who your mates are." Carling's agency, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, recorded 804 different voice tracks to cover all possible outcomes in all England's matches, right up to a score of 10-10.
Three different versions of the commercial were filmed in South Africa last year. One shows the men looking happy about the score, one shows them looking sad, and in the final one, created for a draw, they are neutral.
During the transmission of the matches, an agency representative sat in the control room at the U.K.'s ITV network. Every time a goal was scored, he pressed buttons to update the soundtrack and select the correct video. When the game ended, the commercial -- always first in the ad break -- was ready to run with the appropriate version and the correct score.
If a goal were scored in the final seconds of the match, ITV had agreed to delay the ad break to allow time for the spot to be updated with the correct information; fortunately, this didn't happen. The ads were also scheduled to run in a number of other slots at different times, but as none of the England team's results were much to celebrate -- England won just one of four games and tied two before exiting the World Cup -- Carling substituted more general ads about vuvuzelas instead.
Last Saturday before the England-USA match, Carling went even closer to the edge. The previous day, the brewer ran regional spots offering viewers the chance to win 50 Carling home draught systems, delivered to their homes in time for the big match.
The prizes were delivered on Saturday. A creative team and a camera crew recorded everything for an ad that ran just before the match started that evening. Because of U.K. restrictions on alcohol ads, the crew had to hope they came across enough winners where no kids came to the door, and nobody in the house looked younger than 25.
The same men who starred in the main campaign were on hand during the day to star in the ad hoc spot and maintain the continuity of Carling's message. The 60-second film was finalized and cleared only two hours before broadcast.
Trevor Beattie, co-founder of Carling's agency, BMB London, said, "It's important that Carling is seen to be experiencing the match in the same way the fans do. The ads are a bit cheeky -- we don't do hero worship. That Nike ad is bullshit -- Wayne Rooney is never going to end up in a trailer park. The worst thing that happened to him is that he had to use the back exit at Heathrow Airport to sneak back to his mansion."
ZenithOptimedia's trading director, Cyanne Bonnell, was closely involved in the project. She said, "Our original worry was that this had 'disaster' written all over it. Infinite amounts of things could have gone wrong. There was a nervousness but a real will to go forward. We had a lot of feedback on Twitter about how clever it was, but we're waiting to see if it's sold beer. It would all have been a lot more positive if we'd won every time."
The World Cup is providing a good opportunity to persuade marketers that TV can be a fast-moving medium that rivals the internet in speedy reaction.
"We've had to become a lot more flexible in terms of timing -- this is a growing area," said Mark Trinder, ITV's commercial director. "It's technically tricky to do and we only have the capacity for so many, but viewers expect immediacy on TV more and more -- they are used to voting and affecting the results of programs."
So far, the dynamic insertion spots shown around the World Cup have gone off without a hitch, but there are other reminders that broadcasting can be a hit-and-miss affair: HD viewers of the England-USA match missed England's only goal when ITV accidentally switched to an ad break.
Newspapers are also capitalizing on their ability to react quickly. After England's defeat by Germany, Kia Motors ran a print ad the next day saying, "Oh well, at least our warranty beats the Germans." If England had won, the ad would have said, "Our warranty beats the Germans, too."
But it can all go horribly wrong. In soccer-mad Brazil, which hasn't lost a game yet, supermarket chain Extra's in-house agency had two print ads ready to go in leading daily Folha de Sao Paulo after this week's match against Chile. One ad commiserated with Brazil's team for losing and being sent home while the other commemorated victory. Folha accidentally ran the wrong ad, about Brazil's sad defeat. In reality, Brazil trounced Chile 3-0. Brazilians were infuriated, especially at Extra, where the head of parent company Pao de Acucar, Abilio Diniz, tweeted apologies and excoriated the Sao Paulo daily, promising to punish the guilty.
Contributing: Claudia Penteado in Rio de Janeiro