Super Bowl ads spill the beans early this year

If you’re one of those people who loves surprises and likes the anticipation surrounding new events, this year’s Super Bowl might have been a let down.

For many, Sunday night was not the first time viewers saw the ads that aired during the Super Bowl. A new marketing strategy this year is heightening the expectation and the buzz on the already celebrated commercials. This time more than ever, companies have been releasing ads for their ads. That’s right: a 10 or 15-second teaser to the 30-45 second commercial.

Hayden Noel, assistant professor of business administration, said that this type of marketing intensifies the anticipation and makes the viewer deliberately seek these ads.

“These teasers will tell us before hand what the ad will be about,” Noel said. “And raising the awareness helps make the audience a better target for consuming those ads.”

The commercials are part of the experience of watching the big game. Katrina Olson, visiting lecturer in the College of Media, explains that the ads are such a target for the hype because of the large audience the show has.

“Advertisers put a lot of time, effort, money and creative energy because it’s now part of the American culture as well as part of our consumer culture.” Olson said. “It garners a lot of attention, hype and awareness. If commercials are done well, it creates positive brand association for those products.”

Noel said that people actually remember some of the brands very well. The ads push the products into the consumer’s consideration, even if they won’t necessarily buy them. But aside from being just another marketing event, the Super Bowl ads have a special feel to them.

Indeed, the idea of being part of the culture is found everywhere. Every year there are dedicated sites that record the ads for re-watching, people that rate the best commercials and awards given out for the most creative ones.

“It’s more of getting the discussion going before, during and after the Super Bowl, making it an icon and being a part of the consumer culture,” Madhu Viswanathan, professor in business administration said. “I think it’s really an annual tradition. When you think about something that has this kind of mass audience over the years, it is a way to get people talking about the ads when they get together.”

Although the ads have been part of the Super Bowl since it’s infancy, the way they are delivered is changing. Viswanathan said some of the things that have changed are the different outlets the ads are presented in, how they are leaked out and how technology has influenced the making of these commercials.

Roughly 20 of the 36 Super Bowl advertisers put their TV commercials online before Sunday’s broadcast. Many had interactive apps that rewarded viewers when they checked in while the ad was running, or let them tag certain products. For example, if one tagged the Super Bowl using IntoNow, a social app, while watching the Pepsi Max ad, he or she could have entered a sweepstakes to get free Pepsi Max for life. Noel explains this is a type of marketing dubbed the “second screen” Super Bowl.

“You’re watching the main screen, but they will push a lot of the advertising on mobile devices (cell phones, smart phones, iPads, etc.)” Noel said. “That allows for what is known as telescoping: having interactive ads where you can pull the consumer in, and they have to perform other actions.”

This is a way of tying the viewer in, allowing him to be an active instead of a passive consumer, Noel explains. The strategy is quite successful, as an estimated 60 percent of the audience was expected to use a mobile device sometime during the game, making it easier for them to interact with the product or service advertised.

Olson explains in this type of consumer-centered society, garnering notice is everything when so much money is being spent to gain the consumers attention.

“This type of ‘pre-promotion’ helps differentiate the commercials in the consumer’s mind,” Olson said. “There are so many ads running that the audience might not pay as close attention if they weren’t queued in and expecting a particular product.”

When vying for attention though, having celebrities may not be the wisest choice marketers can make. Studies have shown that ads without celebrities actually perform better, around 2 percent in terms of feedback and positive recall. What is more interesting, however, is that ads with animals perform about 21 percent better than those with celebrities, Noel explained.

“This is due to the fact celebrities have a very different relationship with the audience in the digital age,” Noel said. “Now that they are on social media all the time expressing their various views (political, social), and many people might feel alienated from a particular celebrity they don’t necessarily identify with.”

Using more appealing subjects like animals (that don’t have controversial views) seems to be working very well. For instance, Volkswagen of America began running a video meant to pique interest in its Super Bowl commercial for the 2012 Beetle. The teaser video, called “The Bark Side,” presents a canine chorus performing “The Imperial March” from the “Star Wars” films. The video was viewed 1.6 million times on YouTube in the first 24 hours, already gaining much popularity before its real showing during the game.

No matter how the ads are changing, one thing that will stay the same is the love of the experience the fans have. The ads are part of the show, and many people find the humor and creativity very entertaining.

“They make the audience a bit more attentive,” Olson said. “Most people will get up and grab a snack when the commercials are on, but these commercials add an additional layer of fun and excitement to keep us tuned in.”