Rather than blast teasers of the commercial across YouTube,
Facebook and umpteen other types of social media, Chrysler worked
it up old-school, waiting until the Super Bowl itself to surprise
and excite TV viewers with the actor and his message.
The automaker, which declined to comment for this article, may
be one of the last of a breed. Beginning as early as this week,
many advertisers in the Big Game will tease and reveal details of
their Super Bowl creative as a means to generate response through
digital and social media. Think about Honda's ad last year
featuring Matthew Broderick reprising his role as Ferris Bueller,
or GM's Chevrolet spot focused on a college grad who goes wild
after thinking his parents bought him a car or Acura's funny spot
starring Jerry Seinfeld. They were all over the internet in the
days leading up to the game, and often in longer, funnier versions
than those actually appearing on TV.
To be sure, harnessing the power of social media makes perfect
business sense. When an advertiser shells out between $3.5 million
and $4.5 million for a Super Bowl ad, using social media to get
added exposure isn't just an afterthought. It helps amortize the
cost of the commercial by generating millions of dollars in free
Audi of America, which is making its sixth-consecutive
appearance in the event, believes chatter about Super Bowl ads
begins to fade between 24 and 48 hours after the game is over, said
Loren Angelo, general manager-brand marketing for the automaker.
Unveiling the ads in the weeks before kickoff gives an advertiser
the abiltity to have "a much longer conversation" with consumers,
"The value is certainly in the anticipation of the Super Bowl,"
Mr. Angelo added. "There's only so much that people are going to
talk about at the water cooler on Monday morning."
The technique threatens to put a favorite Super Bowl ad trick on
the shelf to collect dust. For decades, Super Bowl ads hinged on
"the reveal" or the delivery of something surprising. While this
new era of ads is generating loads of digital and social response,
they are also removing a lot of the shock and wonder that were once
a big part of the experience. Would Apple's famous "1984" ad from Super
Bowl XVIII have had as much impact if it were shared endlessly
online in the weeks leading up to its official TV debut?
Some critics think the old ideas are more sound. "Last year's
Super Bowl really calls the strategy of pre-release into question,"
said Charles R. Taylor, a marketing professor at Villanova Business
School. With so many companies running visual teasers of their
spots, he said, many advertisers lost "the element of surprise" and
its absence "may have dampened the effectiveness of some pretty
good ads that would have made a splash if not previewed."
Mercedes-Benz, which is making its second appearance in the
Super Bowl, has held many debates about whether to unveil its
advertising ahead of time or keep everything secret, said Steve
Cannon, president-CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, and "I sort of skew
toward that camp that says maximize impact." Making the ads
available online tends to attract a smaller audience of diehards,
he said, while the majority of game-day viewers "are seeing it for
the first time and it's a total surprise."
Though it will run promotions on social media and at retail,
Paramount Farms will keep a 30-second ad for Wonderful Pistachios
featuring South Korean rapper Psy a secret, said Marc Seguin,
VP-marketing. "It's exciting enough and visually has so much talk
value. We want everyone to see it at once," he said. Likewise, Roy
Benin, chief consumer officer for Mars Chocolate North America is
fearful of bursting "the anticipation bubble," so the candy maker
won't tip its hand on its M&M ad. "There's that first-time,
premier reveal [in game] that we believe is compelling."
Many sponsors acknowledge they can't show up to the game without
something else to say that hasn't already been digested by hundreds
of thousands of video streamers. As Century 21 prepared to roll out
ads in the Super Bowl last year, it released previews internally.
"There's a balancing act," said Beverly Thorne, chief marketing
Clint Eastwood isn't one for balance. He has always portrayed
characters who definitively choose one side over the other. And his
success in the 2012 Super Bowl tells us it's still possible to
spark a national ad phenomenon by using Super Bowl Sunday and
But it's a harder feat to accomplish -- and less certain, to
boot. Harnessing social media is the easier choice. As marketers
take the path of least resistance, however, they may permanently
transform the Super Bowl ad experience, which has become a cultural