The Super Bowl has come and gone, and the postmortem analysis of its advertising this year is one of the most incongruous I've seen. While many industry insiders are calling the ads the best offerings we've seen in years, critics are voicing their disapproval and condemning marketers and their agencies for releasing work that could offend game viewers.
The disapproval stems mostly from imagery deemed inappropriate for children. Certainly, visuals like a pulsating heart jumping out of its owner's chest wouldn't be well received by the very young. As usual, there's also shared aversion toward sensationalist ads that take the adage "sex sells" too far. But can you really criticize Victoria's Secret or GoDaddy.com for doing what's expected of them, and what some might argue is appropriate, given the existing perception of their brands?
Personal tastes aside, there's no arguing progress was made this year. Marketers no longer put their Super Bowl spots in a silo. There's an obvious movement toward integrated campaigns that utilize both TV and Web media and that go way beyond simply posting the spots online post-game.
Cross-discipline planners and buyers working together to harness the power of the biggest advertising opportunity in marketing was a long time coming. Think back to the '90s; as an interactive buyer, your interaction with offline agencies and teams was minimal at best. In contrast, there's now a cumulative effort to leverage this incomparable platform by extending ads' reach to audiences online. In the process, campaigns exhibit some of the best practices our industry has preached for years.
Making a Play for Original Web Content
Audi did a nice job of this with its Godfather-themed R8 ad. The ad referenced the automotive brand's Truth in Engineering microsite, where consumers can view additional footage of the R8 that picks up where the ad left off, this time focusing more on the product than on the conceptual hook. Additional traffic is driven to the site by an online banner campaign.
GoDaddy did the automaker one better by putting its primary content on its site instead of in the game. The company's Super Bowl spot was little more than a conduit for driving consumers online, where the real action unfolded. Critics can censure the tenuously risqué ad all they want, but I'd sooner praise the company for not putting the alternative in front of our kids.
Acknowledging the Fans
Doritos made history in 2007 when it eschewed high production value and special effects and used a CGM (define) ad as its Super Bowl spot. The "Crash the Super Bowl" theme continued this year when amateur musicians were invited to submit performance videos, the best of which appeared during the big game.
Doritos enlisted the help of a banner campaign and MySpace page to promote the contest, and the winner was chosen based on consumer votes. The video was entertaining, and the brand came off as supportive of and encouraging to its target audience. With respect to the campaign, a spokesperson was quoted as saying it was "all about empowering Doritos lovers and giving them access to the opportunities and experiences they dream about."
A great cross-media campaign is multifaceted. It offers its audience varied levels of information and interaction and allows the concept to play out in stages. The two Super Bowl ads offered by Cars.com this year offered but a glimpse into a deeper campaign that does just this.
Thanks to using Cars.com, car shoppers in the ads have such an easy time negotiating their purchase that they needn't resort to calling in unsavory, intimidating characters to help persuade the dealer. The Super Bowl spots introduced consumers to two characters from among several actually produced. The rest of the characters and their ads can be discovered online in a virtual waiting room where they remain, unneeded by the savvy Cars.com user.
In addition to doing a thorough job of relaying its brand message, the campaign gives consumers another reason to visit the Cars.com site and offers a wonderful example of cross-media marketing with purpose. Just another case of strategic marketing benefiting both the advertiser and the consumer. Go team!
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
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