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Super Bowl Ads Online: To Seed or Not to Seed?

  |  January 27, 2012   |  Comments

Marketers use digital to get most out of big game spends. But is it effective?

Super Bowl advertisers in recent years have made a practice out of seeding or teasing their commercials via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Among a few questions, it raises this one: While the online viral may produce buzz for creative agencies behind the TV work, does the seeding tactic actually have a positive impact for the brand spending big money on the uber-premium TV inventory?

According to Ace Metrix, 40 percent of last year's final version spots were released online before they aired during Super Bowl XLV (45). The Mountain View, CA-based media research firm expects that number to be closer to 60 percent for Super Bowl XLVI.

Peter Daboll, Ace Metrix CEO, said his company surveyed 500 consumers last year about the ads they saw under sports television's ultimate spotlight. Daboll said there was a scattershot of negative feedback associated with the seeding tactic.

"We have seen some commentary that it can be a bit of a letdown come Super Bowl Sunday if they've already seen the ads," he said. "But it's still a very small percentage of the viewing audience that actually watches the spots before the game."

Another question: Are there best practices for seeding TV ads, especially for the Super Bowl? Josh Seifert, a senior marketing strategist at Brooklyn, NY-based digital agency Huge, suggests there is a growing artfulness to the tactic.

"Simply running a spot ahead of time as an online pre-roll probably doesn't help a brand that much, because it's not really buzz-worthy," Seifert explained. "But releasing a spot early as an exclusive for loyal brand advocates within social media could be a valuable way to build buzz and make consumers feel more deeply connected than they might seeing a spot along with everyone else."

While some brands release the full version of their Super Bowl spot in the days leading up to the event, others produce dedicated online-only variations to build buzz without emptying their creative arsenal. Some advertisers release such teasers while also "leaking" their complete spot.

Ferris Buehler's Day Back

And then there's Honda, one of this year's Super Bowl advertising viral darlings so far. According to the blog Jalopnik, the automotive brand is behind a mysterious 0:10 YouTube video of actor Matthew Broderick reprising his "Ferris Buehler" 1980s movie character. The video is reportedly a tease for Honda's Super Bowl XLVI spot, and it's garnered 1.3 million views since yesterday.

Chevy's Contest

When it comes to maximizing a Super Bowl spend with online efforts, Zach Newcomb, executive account director at digital agency Rokkan, pointed to Chevrolet's "Route66" contest, which offered consumers the chance to create the brand's Super Bowl ad. The winning submission has been online since late last week, picking up nearly 700,000 YouTube views. It also appeared during the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 22. Chevy is not a client of New York-based Rokkan.

"Brands need to broaden their channel strategy and start asking how digital can help them drive that engagement while television delivers them the reach because," Newcomb said, "as some progressed brands like Chevy are demonstrating, broadcast and digital aren't mutually exclusive."

While the digital agency exec acknowledged the branding power of TV spots, he also admitted, "As I think is the case with a lot of interactive marketers, we always watch these Super Bowl ads and read the marketing chatter around them with a fair amount of envy. Here we are striving to convince our clients to invest another hundred thousand dollars in a digital experience that will deeply engage their audience and create real value for their business while these traditional agencies are arguing with their clients over the same budget to book the organic food truck for their shoot."

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Christopher Heine

Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.

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