Good News: The Super Bowl Phenomenon Is Scalable

Small Marketers Should Copy Successful Bowl Tactics

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
What is it about Super Bowl advertising that gets everyone so excited? Nine years ago, my agency invented the first Super Bowl-commercial rating site, AdBowl.com. Every year more people come to the site and vote for the best commercial. Every year the result of that voting reinforces the truth behind Super Bowl advertising: The right ad can catapult a brand's awareness to an iconic state.

This idea is what we're seeing happen today. Super Bowl advertising has become one component in a comprehensive entertainment-marketing effort. The experience is designed to be its own entertainment event -- a satellite orbiting the biggest entertainment event in the world. Weeks preceding the game, some advertisers offer teasers, "making of" videos and even previews of the actual commercials. SoBe, for example, is promoting the premiere of the first 3-D commercial with all of the hype of a movie premiere.

Today's successful Super Bowl commercial is more about the sizzle than the steak. The comprehensive marketing effort can be an experience that begins weeks before and lasts long after we've forgotten the commercial that cost $3 million to run only once. The opportunities to use the Super Bowl's gravitational pull are an incredible bargain for advertisers. When you consider that 97 million people watched it last year and a spot cost $3 million, the advertiser paid about three cents per viewer to deliver its message. And your commercial doesn't always need to air during the Super Bowl to get attention.

The latest trend may be getting your ad banned from the Super Bowl as PETA did this year by NBC. Let me digress for a moment. PETA's effort was an obvious publicity stunt. It is working to get attention for PETA but now sends a distinctly new brand story of PETA. It left me confused. Who was this ad trying to convince to eat more vegetables? Certainly not children or women. My wife said it made her want to eat vegetables about as much as Cosmo Kramer's shower salad did (Seinfeld, Dec. 11, 1997). She also thought it smacked of hypocrisy because of the blatant use of women as sex objects to promote the better treatment of animals. Perhaps PETA is trying to convert the beer-swilling males that typically watch football? Unfortunately for PETA, I think if you show this audience commercials with beer and women in lingerie, they start thinking about the only thing missing from their version of Nirvana: a sizzling steak. PETA's tactic worked, but in my opinion, to the detriment of the brand.

OK, back on topic. Few small agencies are going to play on the big stage, but today's Super Bowl advertising efforts underscore how critical a broader, entertaining brand experience is if a brand is to connect with its consumers. Small agencies that embrace the opportunity to do so are finding it works even when scaled down. When small advertisers use the same philosophical tactics as Super Bowl advertisers, they will find a much more engaged consumer and will have more opportunities to be invited into his or her life.

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