Super Bowl Ads Use Web to Maintain Buzz

It’s not often that a CEO begins a quarterly earnings call by talking about a fictional character. But on Wednesday, Reebok’s Paul Fireman couldn’t stop talking about Terry Tate, the “office linebacker” charged with righting injustices in the workplace, who Reebok introduced during its third-quarter Super Bowl ad.

The response to the ad, he said, has been overwhelming. On top of a media tour in New York — he decked the “Today” show’s Al Roker for doing a crossword puzzle on the job and had Matt Lauer cowering in fear after failing to recycle — Tate has become an Internet star.

Fireman said the commercial led to a surge of traffic to Reebok.com, where the company has set up a Terry Tate Web site with a four-minute film. Modeled loosely on the much-admired BMW Films campaign, the Terry Tate site will have a new short film every ten days.

In the three days following the game, Fireman said over 800,000 people visited the site. Of those coming to the site, he said 750,000 downloaded the film, which requires registration. Perhaps more important: Fireman said most viewers were men aged 18 to 34, the most important demographic for the shoe and clothing manufacturer. He added that Reebok’s research showed 69 percent said they were likely to buy a Reebok product.

“We’re all pretty excited by the over positive response to our new ad,” Fireman said. “It’s pretty clear from all the press coverage that our new ad introducing Terry Tate scored a touchdown.”

With Super Bowl ads costing over $2 million per 30-second slot, many advertisers have turned to the Web to build buzz for the ad before it airs. Pepsi ran a promotion on Yahoo for users to vote on an ending of its Sierra Mist ad, as well as offering a sneak preview of its Pepsi Twist ad starring the Osbournes. Levi’s Type 1 jeans campaign centered on an Internet contest with the commercial acting as the final clue.

For Reebok, the Internet has played a key role in extending the buzz created by its 60-second spot, which TiVo said was watched more by its viewers than even the game itself. Other Super Bowl advertisers are also seeing the Web lengthen the effects of their TV spots.

Yahoo’s Buzz Index ranked “Super Bowl commercials” as No. 6 on its “movers” list for the week, drawing a 1,612 percent increase in searches by Yahoo users.

Internet advertisers have continued to see high traffic to their Web sites in the aftermath of the game, according to figures released today by comScore Media Metrix. While some Super Bowl advertisers saw big traffic spikes during the game, many saw surges on Monday, when viewers had returned to the office and broadband connections.

On Monday, the sites recording the biggest traffic jumps were car and movie sites. Cadillac, which ran five ads during the night, saw a 1,096 percent traffic increase compared to a week earlier. Movie sites, however, led the way: “The Hulk” site surged 1,963 percent; “Terminator 3” by 665 percent; and “The Matrix” sequel by 466 percent.

Reebok.com saw a 308 percent traffic increase from a week earlier, despite the fact that Reebok did not feature its product or brand prominently in the ad.

“As the campaign continues, it will be interesting to see if the online extension continues to draw the same volume of traffic,” said Stephen Kim, comScore Media Metrix’s chief research officer.

Reebok’s Fireman is sanguine about the prospects of continuing the Terry Tate franchise over the next four to six months. He said the company would probably roll out a couple more films, on top of the four scheduled, from footage already shot.

Gary Stein, an analyst with Jupiter Research, which is owned by the parent company of this site, said the key for Reebok is to take the buzz and convert it into brand recognition.

“They’ve got a good platform and they can start to compel action,” he said.

In a way, Stein said, Reebok is trying to create another Mars Blackmon, the fictional character Spike Lee created in the 1980s for Nike, while avoiding the pitfalls of the Taco Bell Chihuahua. The fast food chain’s mascot gained wide popularity, but Taco Bell sales actually declined.

As for Tate, played by actor and former football player Lester Speight, Fireman said he was returning to Los Angeles for more media appearances.

“We’ve got a hot property,” he added.

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