Why Brands Need to Invest in a Second-Screen Super Bowl Strategy

Mobile presents a powerful opportunity to reach consumers

Brands need to focus their attention on the second screen.
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Super Bowl Sunday is a mere week away, and from Snickers’ live ad to GoDaddy’s Roomba cats, an overwhelming amount of attention is being paid to the highly-anticipated commercials. With estimated costs surpassing $5 million per 30-second commercial, this year’s game is set to be one of the most expensive advertising ventures of all time.

Whether that price tag represents a mere drop in the bucket for a brand’s marketing budget—or in the case of many smaller brands is unrealistically out of reach—we’ve gotten to the point where the lead-in and aftermath of the Super Bowl ad is more important than the ad itself for reaching targeted consumers.

Whether you’re a big-time brand looking to amplify your Super Bowl ad or a smaller company looking to enter the fray, the second screen is a powerful opportunity to reach a highly targetable audience. According to Rubicon Project’s survey of more than 800 self-described “die-hard football” fans, more than a quarter of NFL fans regularly engage in second-screen content while watching their favorite team on television.

'The second screen is a powerful opportunity to reach a highly targetable audience.'
-Tom Kershaw

Additionally, nearly half (48 percent) have at least one sports app on their phone. Perhaps even more interesting is that a Rubicon Project Twitter poll of more than 3,900 self-identified Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots fans this week found that more than a third plan to engage with their mobile device during the game. With tens of millions of fans planning to both watch the game live on television while also checking stats, playing games, shopping and engaging with social media on their mobile device, the second screen presents a clear opportunity for brands seeking to maximize their Super Bowl strategy.

Here are four things to consider when building your all-star second-screen game plan:

1. Align measurement from the beginning

To ensure a truly effective cross-device campaign, you need to think differently about how and what you measure. Develop a comprehensive measurement strategy for your campaign that goes well beyond just reach and demographics to include a combination of traditional TV measurement, engagement and overall business lift. Think creatively about campaign objectives. Brand and sales lift, and overall long-term engagement is key as the Super Bowl is a unique event to forge impressions with users. Ensure your exchange partners understand cross-device campaign analytics and can provide a comprehensive blend of digital and mobile measurement that can synchronize with traditional measurement systems.

2. Second screen, second life

Despite its reputation as the holy grail of advertising, the Super Bowl is a fiercely competitive environment for ads. The limited amount of inventory and the hefty price tags attached mean most commercials only air once during the game. An automated, cross-device campaign, however, provides the same commercial unlimited opportunities to make an impression on a consumer during the game and in the days or weeks following the game. And remember, when a fan is engaging on the second screen, the TV becomes the background noise—the deepest engagement is happening on the connected device.

3. One size (or format) does not fit all

Mobile is inherently different from desktop, and it’s often the best advertising that recognizes that. Squeezing a 30-second ad into a mobile experience may not be the best fit for the platform. Think about repurposing a segment of your ad or even designing an ad for mobile. One example was the decidedly unconventional format of Jeep’s “Portraits” ad during last year’s Super Bowl. The vertical format displayed beautifully on mobile devices because it was made with mobile devices in mind. Think holistically about your content and formats—effectively targeted ads can take the form of banner or audio ads on mobile, a keyword or interactive ad on mobile, or possibly even an interactive game on a mobile device that reinforces and makes the TV engagement actionable. Rubicon Project’s Twitter poll found that nearly one third of Super Bowl viewers will watch the game on their computer or smartphone and nearly two fifths will use their mobile device during the game, creating millions of opportunities for pre or mid-roll video engagement.

4. Target the individual consumer, not just the demographic

Traditional Super Bowl commercials appear before an audience of more than 100 million Americans, effectively one third of the nation. While this group is massive, it’s highly untargeted. Advertising in an automated fashion with a partner capable of deploying highly effective cross-device technology allows marketers to effectively target for any number of factors including age, purchase intent and browsing history. For example, Toyota can (and most likely will) take advantage of targeting to promote this year’s Lexus commercial to intenders who are currently in the market for a new car or have previously searched for the 2018 LC 500. To take the example a step further, a local dealership group looking to ride the wave of the Super Bowl could promote the commercial locally and directly to those individuals most receptive to the message.

Mobile devices represent a powerful opportunity to stand out in a crowded marketplace and establish strong engagement and presence on which they can continue to build long after the season is over. When it comes to Super Bowl Sunday, brands need to utilize a thoughtful strategy that blends careful measurement, holistic content and well-designed formats to meaningfully engage with viewers’ second screens.

Tom Kershaw is Rubicon Project‘s chief product and engineering officer.