Much like "Christmas creep" made holiday shopping a months-long marathon, Super Bowl ad sprawl is changing the face of an American institution.
The ability to post Super Bowl commercials online has already tempted many marketers into giving up the impact of an in-game debut, diffusing a concentrated roster of must-see ads into something more like lingering fog.
Now USA Today will open voting on the game's most popular ad four days before the game, at noon the Wednesday before. Voting in previous years waited until Super Bowl Sunday.
USA Today's annual Super Bowl Ad Meter doesn't crown the most effective commercial, just the most entertaining according to its voters, but it still gets a lot of attention. At least one major marketer allegedly put its account in review in anger over missing the Ad Meter top 10.
Now pre-released Super Bowl commercials will have days to get scored by voters, amid supporting efforts, extended cuts and PR boosts that could help their favorability.
That could increase the pressure on advertisers to put out their spots before they can use their multimillion-dollar berths on Feb. 5. It could also further undermine consumers' interest in paying close attention to ads on Super Bowl Sunday.
The counter-argument of course is the online views: Last year's ad from Wix.com, released four days before the game, had at least 28 million views three days before the game -- and still presumably got a good audience when it aired during Super Bowl 50. This year's first ad to be released was Intel's spot, which became public on Jan. 13.
Some marketers do still keep their ads back until their slot in the game. Fiat Chrysler typically waits, as it did last year with the well-recieved "Portraits" and "4x4ever." "Portraits" ranked 13th on last year's Ad Meter; the winner, "First Date" for Hyundai, was released the Thursday before the game.
USA Today is also promoting its Super Bowl coverage with a Facebook Live series before and after the game.
"This year we are excited to launch an industry-first, socially-interactive Facebook Live series that will discuss the intersection of Madison Avenue, sports and Hollywood stars with witty and insightful Super Bowl commercial analysis from a panel of experts," said Dave Morgan, president of USA Today Sports Media Group, in a statement.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said the early voting could let pre-released ads rack up votes at the expense of ads that debut in the Super Bowl. The Ad Meter does not just count votes; it averages ratings.