Marketers Turn to Mobile to Stretch Their Super Bowl Buys

A-B, Pizza Hut Emerald Nuts Prolong Engagement With Text Messages, Ringtones

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SAN FRANCSICO ( -- Though you won't be able to watch the Super Bowl on the mobile screen this year, that won't stop high-profile marketers from connecting to the small screen to expand the reach of their big-game ads.
Anheuser-Busch will allow viewers to rate its 10 commercials via text-messaging.
Anheuser-Busch will allow viewers to rate its 10 commercials via text-messaging.

"Every year mobile has increased in visibility, but it has now hit a critical mass," said Nihal Mehta, CEO of Ipsh, an Omnicom Group-owned marketing firm that has produced three Super Bowl campaigns. "Marketers find this isn't a novelty anymore -- now they are using mobile for real marketing," he said.

A-B's 'secret' ad
Anheuser-Busch is taking a page from the success of American Idol's text-messaging program, will allow viewers to rate its 10 commercials via their handhelds. As part of its promotion, self-declared adults who register on the Anheuser-Busch website will be given the opportunity to vote and to see a "secret" 11th commercial. They also will be able to pass information about the secret spot to others.

"Anheuser-Busch views this mobile campaign as an important, interactive element to advertising in the future," a company spokesman wrote in an e-mail. "Through our interactive campaign we are looking to take adults from spectators to participants in the 'Super Bowl of Advertising.'"

Anheuser-Busch said more than half of the nation's 200 million mobile-phone subscribers now use their handsets for more than voice calls, with more than 10 billion text messages sent monthly. This is particularly true in the 25- to 34-year-old demographic, with 17.3 million subscribers using text messaging, almost equally split between males and females. Last year alone, half of phone subscribers 21-to-34 participated in a radio or TV text-messaging campaign, the brewer said.

Expanding their reach
The mobile push by Super Bowl advertisers comes at a time when marketers are trying to expand the impact of their ad messages beyond TV. Mr. Mehta said the cost of these mobile campigns is "less than 5% of the cost of airtime on the Super Bowl" -- a 30-second spot during the game is selling for $2.6 million -- and "can dramtically increase the life of that commercial by capturing consumers in the pocket."

Super Bowl ad buyers Pizza Hut and Emerald Nuts are also turning to mobile to compliment their ads. Pizza Hut is embedding a code in its pre-game ad that viewers can text to the "TheHut" to be entered in a contest to win prizes from a car to music downloads. Emerald Nuts' ad featuring Robert Goulet, in which he is positioned as an "enemy of natural energy," will include free ringtones.

Other marketers not in the game but trying to tie into the Super Bowl also are answering the call of the mobile phone. Visa USA said a new survey showed 38% of teens play a cellphone game more than once a week, and 10% of teenagers are what it called "super cellphone gamers" who play five time a day or more. In a joint promotion with the National Football League, Visa is offering a free mobile game, "Financial Football," which helps parents teach children about financial lessons.
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