Volkswagen and Audi
are among the advertisers ponying up for 60-second spots.
considering a 45-second ad for its PepsiMax beverage, according to
Joe Pytka, the veteran Super Bowl advertising director who is
working on the spot. A Pepsi spokeswoman said the company has not
finalized its Super Bowl plans.
Scott Keough, Audi of America's chief marketing officer,
believes a longer ad gives consumers room for discussion beyond
just product and price, and offers them better reasons to buy in an
uncertain economic climate.
"People want to purchase things that have substance, that
represent them and aren't viewed as trivial," Mr. Keough said.
But longer ads are the product of a broader creative movement --
the return to storytelling. There are nascent signs that some
advertisers are embracing longer commercials all year.
According to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media, there was an
increase in the number of 60-second TV spots and a decline in
30-second commercials in November 2011 compared with the same month
a year earlier.
And many of the best TV ads of 2011, as ranked by Creativity ,
relied on an emotionally engaging storyline -- such as Volkswagen's
popular "Mini Darth Vader" Super Bowl spot -- to make their
Jim Haygood, editor of the Darth Vader ad, told Creativity that
"everyone was in love with the 60 [second], so we struggled to get
the 30 (which would be on the Super Bowl in a week) to capture the
same magic. ... I think we all feel that the 30 didn't quite
capture the full feeling of the 60, and in the end it was just a
function of time."
Whether this strategy of longer ads is being embraced en masse
is not yet clear. Fewer 60-second spots hit the air between the
fourth quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of 2011 than did in
the same time period in 2006 and 2007, according to Nielsen. At one
major cable network, ad-sales executives say 60-second ads are
popular among movie studios and iconoclast marketers such as
Nike but aren't
gaining more traction with other advertisers.
Even so, there's a growing sense among marketers that consumers,
bombarded by so many short-form web banners and mobile pop-ups,
would welcome a return to the days when TV ads told stories and
featured characters and concepts that pulled at the heartstrings
and got the blood racing. "Humans prefer storytelling to just
telling," said David Lubars, chairman and chief creative
officer of Omnicom's BBDO North
In short, the longer ads might just be harder to forget. "There
are many 30-second commercials that have been effective," said Mr.
Pytka, who has helped create iconic Super Bowl ads for Pepsi , Nike
and the company now known as Anheuser-Busch
InBev. "I just don't remember any."
And marketers may simply have a case of "get me one of those"
after Chrysler's much-talked-about two-minute spot in last year's
big game. Playing in this field, however, isn't cheap. Super Bowl
ads run between $3 million and $4 million -- and that 's for just
30 seconds. The longer the spot, the higher its cost.
Technology is also likely playing its part. Social media means
ads can be streamed countless times outside of their TV airings.
That's prompted more advertisers to think of their commercials as
content, complete with characters, small details and an emphasis on
story. If an ad gets people talking, posting and tweeting, so much
"With commercial avoidance easier than ever, making what is
traditionally a simple commercial message into an actual piece of
content that the viewer leans forward and chooses to view is the
best way to get your products noticed," said Dave Campanelli,
senior VP-director of national TV at independent shop Horizon Media.
Another reason to perhaps ditch the typical bumper crop of
raunchy humor, "Jackass"-worthy hijinks or D-list celebrities that
grow in every Super Bowl? In the past three years, the audience for
the event has swelled. Last year Fox's telecast was the
most-watched TV program ever, reaching about 111 million viewers,
according to Nielsen.
"I like a good joke as much as the next person, but that just
doesn't seem worthy of an audience of 111 million," said Matt
MacDonald, executive creative director at WPP's JWT, New York. "If you're going to speak to
111 million people, do you really want to tell a fart joke?"