Super Bowl LII is less than one month away, and if you’re in it for the ads (which, duh, we are) there hasn’t been much to get excited about in the way of Big Game news. By now, it’s typical to see a slew of marketers and brands jumping to announce their ad plans. In 2017, a whopping 49 ads ran during the Super Bowl broadcast, with 36 brands releasing their full ads ahead of time. Still others made announcements or released teasers.
This year seems … different.
Obviously, there’s still plenty of time for this next batch of game day ads and teasers to roll out, but what gives? Why are brands delaying their Super Bowl marketing rollout?
Last year, brands started announcing their Super Bowl plans as early as December and rolled out teasers as early as Jan. 3. This year, a small handful of brands announced their Big Game plans, but only two have released teasers so far (as of Jan. 12).
Truth Collective founder and chief creative officer, Jeremy Schwartz, suggested there are a few things at play, including “new preferences for short-form online video where Super Bowl ad concepts don’t translate,” he said. As marketers think more about the shortening attention span of its core audience, six-second ads have exploded onto the scene. It seems now that mentality of “shorter is better” could be seeping into marketers’ Big Game decisions.
Havas Media SVP of strategic investments, Jeff Gagne, agreed. “In this era of ever-shortening attention spans, a danger lingers that your message might start to erode as others gain steam around the momentum of the game itself,” Gagne said. “It’s all a bit of a calculated gamble, and every advertiser has different goals to consider when weighing timing.”
Teasing and prereleasing the ad
For the past few years, brands have operated under the assumption that releasing teasers ahead of the game would garner even more buzz and engagement for the company. For many, that move worked in their favor, even if not all viewers liked the spot.
Take Audi and Budweiser’s ads from last year’s game. Audi’s “Daughter” ad about equal pay and Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” were both released a few days before the game, and while many praised the work, both companies also drew backlash on social media.
That didn’t necessarily hurt Audi and Budweiser in the long run, though. Both brands saw some serious engagement online, with Budweiser scoring 221,151 social actions and Audi garnering 105,787 in the week following the Super Bowl, per iSpot. The two ads, which were published several days before the Big Game, had garnered over 10 million views each just days after the game.
“Whether the goal is purely consumer-facing or a rallying cry for the organization, brands that successfully tap into that pregame discussion have a significant advantage to drive greater reach and engagement that the game alone cannot deliver in one fleeting moment,” Gagne said.
Others haven’t fared as well in the past by releasing a spot ahead of time. GoDaddy had to pull its 2014 spot after viewers cried out on social media that the ad promoted puppy mills. So releasing ahead of time doesn’t come without its challenges.
There also comes a danger of getting lost in the clutter of social media, especially for brands that fork over the hefty dough necessary for a 30-second spot (which this year costs north of $5 million).
“Now, with the use of social media, a lot of other brands are able to come in at a way lower price point, without doing that media buy,” Madison Wharton, global chief production officer, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, said. “There is a ton of noise and clutter in the days leading up to the game, and you are spending tens of millions of dollars on that media buy. You’re in the same exact landscape as brands that aren’t making that investment.”
A changing landscape
Ian Baer, chief strategy officer at Rauxa, points to Oreo’s famous tweet from the 2013 Super Bowl. When the stadium lost power, Oreo (and 360i) pushed out an absolutely perfect, in-the-moment tweet, telling viewers and Oreo fans that they could still “dunk in the dark.”
“When Oreo ‘won’ the Super Bowl ad competition by dominating on Twitter a few years ago—instantly making any brand not named Oreo jealous—they reset the bar somewhat and made it clear that a be-all, end-all commercial isn’t necessarily the path to victory anymore,” Baer explained.
Others think the move marks a shift back to earlier Super Bowl days, before social media—when no one knew who had an ad in the game or what the concepts were going to be, and certainly no one had seen the full ad before it aired for the first time. It’s about bringing excitement back to the experience of watching the Super Bowl, according to Saatchi & Saatchi New York chief strategy officer, Wanda Pogue.
“People watch the game for the ads as much as they do for the competition itself. I think in recent years, with everything coming out early, we have lessened the experience, and what a lot of advertisers are trying to do is reignite that,” Pogue said.
Added Wharton: “I really hope we can get back to that, celebrating the ads during the game. It’s the Oscars of advertising, and when we release [the ads] early and you just see it from a link on your phone … well, let’s just say, if you made Lawrence of Arabia, would you want people to watch it on their phone? Probably not.”