A b-to-b marketer's perspective on the Super Bowl

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Like 108 million other people around the world, I eagerly tuned in on Super Bowl Sunday.  And, like many people around the world, I paid careful attention to the advertisements. However, when I watched the ads, I watch them as I always have; through the pragmatic lens of a B2B marketer.

I would summarize this year's viewing as follows:  Super Bowl marketers are finally getting it!  Let me explain what I mean:

  • A B2C-only venue— In years past, there were more B2B advertisers. It's safe to say that between the great recession/unsteady recovery and the ever-increasing price of 30-second Super Bowl spot, most B2B advertisers have rethought any presence on the big game. By my count, the only B2B advertiser even close to a national spot was Go Daddy and I would argue that through this medium, they are really seeking the consumer market.
  • A campaign and not a spot—In the past, many advertisers flew in the face of conventional and pragmatic advertising and ran single spots without integration and without lead-ups or follow-ups. I think back to a very clever FedEx spot (10 Things needed to make the best Super Bowl commercial with Burt Reynolds). It was a hilarious spot, but the production cost vis-à-vis the one-time impact simply could not have been a cost-effective decision. This year, nearly every advertiser used teasers to lead up to their ad in the big game or repurposed their materials extensively.
  • A dialog; not a monologue—As B2C brands become less and less distant from their consumers, they are increasingly trying to emulate the dialog that B2B marketers have enjoyed for a century. The legacy practices of letting your distribution channels deal with the customer are going away. That's not to say that distributors and retailers are leaving the B2C landscape…they still serve the valuable purpose of buffering inventory. However, consumers will no longer stand for talking with an 18-year old clerk when they have questions about their purchase. They want direct access and the Web and social media have given them that. This is evidenced by the fact that 26 of the 52 national TV spots on The Super Bowl touted Twitter handles.

To sum it up, I think that B2C advertisers are getting smarter. I think that they are learning from some of the best practices that B2B marketers have known for years.  And as a result, I think the Super Bowl had one of the most effective advertising crops in years. While they may not have been the funniest batch of ads, they probably were the most productive and high yielding ads.

Even if those B2C marketers are finally getting it, that doesn't mean that I'm not envious of their budgets.

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