A Flag on Leaked Super Bowl Ads

Football flag image2012 was the year of the Super Bowl advertising commercial pre-game release. Never before have more companies debuted or teased their ads online in the weeks leading up to their official game day appearance. So, what accounts for this new trend?

Simply put, this strategy of leaking commercials in advance gives advertisers and companies more bang for their buck. Super Bowl commercials these days run about $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, so it’s no surprise that companies are looking for the biggest bang for their buck. The latest marketing trend is to develop multi-platform campaigns around the commercials themselves. In effect, they are creating advertisements to advertise their advertisements!

Advertisers are saving money by getting the ads out online and placing them in TV spots before they have to shell out hundreds of thousands or millions for the game day showing. In some ways, they’ve learned from the music industry that a well-contained leak actually helps them. Many companies launched Twitter campaigns ahead of time, sponsoring hashtags and promoting accounts. They also utilized other social networks like YouTube and Pinterest to promote the preview, which clearly shows a strategic effort across paid, earned and owned media properties. Bloggers also posted about the leaked ads, and friends shared the news about the commercials in advance, which equates to free marketing – something any brand manager would want! Beyond online activity, mainstream media shows like the Today Show covered the ad previews in the week leading up to the game, which likely resulted from a strong PR push to generate awareness.

However, as highlighted by our client Attensity, the most buzzed-about ads in social media during the game came from companies that held out until Sunday’s broadcast for their big premiere.

For instance, Chrysler’s ad was pitch-perfect in its timing, coming in at half-time and spot on in tone — not to mention a more than worthy follow-up to last year’s iconic ‘Imported From Detroit’ spot featuring Eminem. It was all the more powerful for not being leaked ahead of the game, even amidst rumors that Chrysler had hired Clint Eastwood for the Super Bowl. Budweiser also got more of a lift by not leaking any spots in advance.

Along these lines, it’s worth noting the people that don’t even like football and just tune in to the Super Bowl for the commercials. While the idea of making every dollar count is something that I can get behind 100 percent, the companies are taking much of the allure away from the first time these commercials are shown. If the fans can get the commercials before the event, all of the people that just watch for the off-field action will have no need to tune into the actual game.

My prediction? The pre-leak trend will continue for Super Bowls to come. Call me a purist, but there is something to be said about waiting – or perhaps only teasing snippets of the ad beforehand (as Coke smartly did) – rather than showing the entire ad in advance and removing the surprise factor when it matters most: during the game itself.

Jordan Hubert can be reached at jhubert@sterlingpr.com. Follow Jordan on Twitter@jahubert.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon via Flickr