Superbowl Advertising: Alive and Well

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Can you believe that Superbowl XLIV Sunday is tomorrow?
mancrunchThis year ad-geeks like me are talking more about the banned commercials than the ones that have been approved and scheduled to run during the game. It seems that CBS’ Standards and Practices Department has been rather busily banning ads — this year it’s gay dating site and text message answer service KGB, while a spot from a conservative Christian group (Focus on the Family) featuring quarterback Tim Tebow and a pro-life message will be shown, despite protests.
Ad prices for the game were at $2.5 million for 30 seconds, down slightly from last year’s rates. As of today, ad spaces are officially sold out. Despite the shaky economy, lots of companies have decided to invest in the pricey TV ads that appear during the game, hoping that viewers won’t be offended by over-the-top ads, entertaining though they may be, when so many people are struggling.
Rather than worrying over the impression their ads might give to a recession weary public, companies should be concerned that CBS  isn’t putting on the best commercials… only the most tasteful, according to the network’s own exacting standards of propriety. All well and good until you fall on the wrong side of those standards.
And while few businesses have the budgets to create and pay for ad space during the Superbowl, I’ve noticed four basics that can help any business owner build business.
1. Always use quality creative.
Granted those Superbowl spots are the culmination of months of work by top creative agencies, hardly within reach for most marketing budgets. This doesn’t mean you must accept sub-par creative — do this and what you save on creative will be nothing compared to what you lose in terms of your brand position and respect for your business. With today’s technology, there’s no reason why you can’t have a professionally produced, engaging and effective ad at a price you can afford.
To keep the costs of producing a TV ad within reach, you might consider stock video footage as you shop around for an advertising or video production firm who can make a good quality commercial for a few thousand dollars. Prepackaged ads from an ad library are another way to go that includes unique sales copy and custom voice-over work for under $1,000. When it comes to getting your ad on the air, this too can be far more affordable then you might think, especially on local cable stations.
Remember TV spots need to follow the rules of any good marketing. Communicate what you offer and why it is of value to the viewer. Reinforce your brand position and include a call to action — just what you want the viewer to do.
Beyond the benefits of your ad itself, the “word of mouth” exposure your ad gets can be far more valuable. The internet has leveled the playing field — anything can take off. Just as with the Superbowl ads we’ll all be judging (and talking about) on Monday morning, your ad has just as much chance as any to generate buzz.
2. Support ads with other media.
More than ever before Superbowl advertisers are using digital or social media (Twitter, Facebook or blog posting) to support their ads. A smart move — repeating a consistent, concise message over and over, in different ways and on different platforms, will finally break through the clutter of messages a consumer is exposed to on a daily basis.
Last year it was the E-Trade baby that started appearing on the web before the big game. And remember the Frito-Lay contest where regular folks could try to make a TV spot for the chips? This year, Budweiser is urging everyone to become fans of its Facebook page and vote on the ad that will be shown on Superbowl Sunday. Quite a change to the longtime Superbowl advertising leader. These campaigns all make great use of other media to bring attention to the commercial, and the brand.
The good news for smaller businesses is that you’ve likely already using the internet and social media tools for your business. You have a presence right alongside all those Fortune 500 companies — only you’re able to respond and react without all the layers of approvals.
Of course we can’t talk about supporting your marketing efforts without at least mentioning promotional products. Any item that comes imprinted with your company name and logo can be used to support and reinforce your TV ad or any other business promotion efforts. A fully trained product specialist can help you choose an item that works with your overall marketing message, or becomes a welcome addition to a special event.
3. Expose your message to as much of your audience as possible.
The Superbowl continues to draw the biggest single audience of the year — mostly male, but with a good number of women and younger kids watching too — and this is what makes it such a powerful draw for advertisers. There’s the excitement of a live broadcast. It was 2008’s game on FOX between the New York Giants and New England Patriots hit a high point in viewership. This was only eclipsed by last year’s Superbowl matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers — the the most watched Superbowl ever.

People are still watching.
A recent Nielsen survey found that many of those watching the game pay attention to the commercials, as much as, maybe more, than the action on the field. An ad agency survey found 66% of viewers remember their favorite ad from the 2009 Superbowl, while only 39% remember which team won. I’m one of those.
4. Press coverage is worth its weight in gold.
Rejection of a company’s Superbowl ad isn’t necessarily a bad thing… the buzz these firms get as a result being denied airtime puts a product/service before a broader audience, costs nothing and positions the business as the victim to the network’s stodgy ogre.

Even better,  the spots themselves are readily viewable on sites like YouTube so that anyone with a computer can see them. You can’t beat the “cool” factor here.
While we’re talking Superbowl commercials, I found Peter Hartlaub of msnbc has taken the time to rank them and come up with a list of the ten best superbowl ads of all time. You might not agree with the placements, but it’s a great list… and a fun walk down memory lane all the same.
If you’re interested, you can get a sneak peak of the Superbowl 2010 commercials before the game. Once the coin is tossed, there will be ads for names we know — Anheuser-Busch, Volkswagen, Dr. Pepper )rival Pepsi opted out after 23 years), Chrysler, Dockers, Kia Motors, America, Unilever, Teleflora, Home Away, Flo TV and more.
So sit back… relax with your favorite beverage, unhealthy but crunchy snacks and the people who mean the most to you and enjoy the commercials… oh yes, and what comes in between… the game.

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