The Super Bowl is one of the few television events where people are more likely to tune in to the ads as entertainment, versus ignoring or skipping the ads. It’s a water cooler on steroids.
Beginning in the late 1990s, the marketing industry has looked to the Internet as a pillar of the Super Bowl advertising extravaganza. In most years, a thematic lens has emerged to contextualize the digital behaviors and performance of the advertisers.
During the first dotcom boom in the late 1990s into 2001, when we first achieved a critical mass of Internet Super Bowl advertisers, our industry focused on daily visitors to advertiser websites as the first success proxy in determining winners and losers. I was lucky to have a front-row seat as the marketing communications lead at Media Metrix (now part of comScore), and oversaw the overnight Super Bowl analysis and ratings releases to industry reporters, who gobbled them up.
By 2005 and 2006, with the rapid emergence of blogs and other nascent social media, our industry introduced online buzz metrics as another indicator of online momentum. Marketers began embracing social media to drive audience participation and prolonged excitement. Again, I had a front-row seat into the game, overseeing Super Bowl analysis and ratings releases as the marketing lead at BuzzMetrics (now NM Incite, a joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey).
Now, in 2013, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become powerful mainstream forces bridging the Internet and brand marketing. Social media’s combination of video, mobile and sharing capabilities have heavily influenced Super Bowl advertising strategy, as evidenced by pre-game commercial releases and teasers on YouTube, social engagement contests and apps, and Twitter and Facebook calls-to-action at the end of commercials. Again, I can’t escape the Super Bowl, as my team at my latest company deals with metrics around this year’s Super Bowl advertisers.
Interestingly, the full adoption of social sharing and online video into Super Bowl advertising has prompted a key question: Are early pre-game YouTube releases of commercials good or bad? Does early online video buzz drive excitement or hinder an otherwise climatic buildup? Stuart Elliott, the prolific grandaddy of advertising reporters, posed the question. So did Meg James in the Los Angeles Times and Brian Steinberg in Ad Age, among others.
Indeed, there are advertisers and agency professionals in both camps. Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble are expected to share part, but not all, of their Super Bowl ads. Mars is keeping its ad under wraps. Others are debating and mixing it up.
The real answer to the question inevitably lies in an ad’s creativity and execution, either way. The answer also will depend on individual brand goals and the means of measuring them. You can bet our industry will probe this question with social analytics and other means.
The funny thing is, this very debate is part of a grand, self-fulfilling prophecy. We are creating more buzz about the ads.
So join in and answer the question:
Are early pre-game YouTube releases of commercials good or bad?
This article also ran in MediaPost.
(Photo: YouTube Screengrab of Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl Commercial)