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Super Bowl

How Marketers Can Bring Their A-Game to the Super Bowl

It Can Make or Break Careers

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If you want to crush it in the Super Bowl in 2015, it might be good to start planning this month.

Now that smart marketers are seeking to expand their 30-second and 60-second ad buys beyond TV, planning around the big game has become more complex, according to Adam Komack, chief client officer at Mediacom.

Marketers start focusing on creative eight months in advance, and they won't pull the trigger unless they're convinced they have a winner, he said.

Mr. Komack advises his clients not to advertise on the Big Game unless they're prepared to spend $6 million to $10 million overall, to bookend their in-game spot with weeks of promotion/digital marketing.

"You have to plan for a four-week period, not a one-day period, to account for all the digital, the search, the mobile, integration with online partners," he said.

Marketers now plan when and how they announce they bought a Super Bowl spot. "It's become part of the mini-marketing plan because there's so much media interest," Mr. Komack said.

As Mediacom client Volkswagen did after its hit spot, The Force, by Deutsch, Mr. Komack said most clients should plan some type of retail event following the game "to capitalize on all the noise the brand has made."

High Stakes
The Super Bowl, of course, is more than just a game and a handful of anticipated commercials. It's a high stakes proving ground where companies succeed and fail and careers are made and lost.

For TV networks, it's the place to charge the highest ad rates -- and promote their new schedules for the coming season.

For marketers, the Super Bowl is the one place where they're guaranteed a huge audience will be watching their commercial. Last year's game averaged 108.7 million viewers and drew a 46.4 TV rating, according to Nielsen, making it the third most-watched TV show in U.S. history. Another 5.3 million people sent out 26.1 million tweets during the game.

At a time when other live events such as the Academy Awards are losing audience, nothing delivers like the Super Bowl. Just ask marketers at car companies such GM, Hyundai and Toyota that use the telecast to launch new models and build their brands

"If Super Bowl didn't exist as an automotive platform, we'd have to invent it," says Steve Shannon, VP of marketing for Hyundai, which will advertise for the seventh straight year. "Not only does the broadcast itself bring great value, but if you just look at the explosion in the social-media value and digital value in recent years, it's a terrific return on investment."

Not for Everyone
But that doesn't mean big automotive companies should be on every year, notes Jack Hollis, VP of marketing for Toyota, which bought a 60-second slot to advertise the 2014 Highlander.

"The Super Bowl is clearly the vehicle to reach as many people as humanly possible. It delivers on that all day long," Mr. Hollis said. "But that's not the right strategy for every car brand, every year. We look at it on a year-by-year basis."

Super Bowl can make or break creative careers, said Tham Khai Meng, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer for Ogilvy & Mather. Lee Clow and Steve Hayden of TBWA/Chiat/Day became living legends after creating "1984" for Apple Macintosh.

On the other hand, if you're spot flops on Super Bowl Sunday, "you want to burn your reel," said Mr. Tham.

Or worse. Just for Feet's ad in 1999, loudly decried as racist, was dubbed one of the worst Super Bowl ad's of all time, prompting the company to sue agency Saatchi & Saatchi. The suit was later dropped and Just for Feet went out of business in 2000.

Wrong Reasons
There's human ambition at work too, according to Mr. Tham. Some CMO's and creative directors advertise on the Super Bowl more for career reasons than anything else: "They want to get to their next gig. They want this under their belts so they can have bragging rights."

If you want to put your TV commercial up against the country's best in front of the largest TV audience of the year, you better have "tough skin," warns Tony Ponturo, the ex-media chief for Anheuser-Busch turned producer of the New York Yankees-themed Broadway show, Bronx Bombers.

A growing number of media outlets now review Super Bowl ads, making it something of a "consumer report card," he noted. "You're put there on a pedestal to be publicly critiqued. That doesn't normally happen."

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