Super Bowl 50 is three weeks away, but for many advertisers, the digital pregame is about to begin with a barrage of online teaser videos culminating in the full commercial reveal before the big game.
With ads running at a reported $5 million per 30-second spot — the most expensive airtime in TV history — marketers are increasingly relying on digital platforms and promotions to get their money’s worth. Building anticipation and buzz online has become as important to advertisers as the game itself, annually the most watched event in television and the highest-profile stage for their commercials.
Coming up with a spot that has people talking the day after at the water cooler and on social media is the goal.
“It used to be you just had to worry about creating a great piece of advertising,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who heads up an annual Super Bowl Advertising Review. “Now you have to create great advertising, but you also need to put together an entire integrated marketing campaign around the advertising.”
The Super Bowl will be played on Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and televised on CBS, which for the first time will simulcast the commercials during a free live stream of the game. That will help advertisers capture an increasingly fragmented video audience, even for the ultimate live TV event.
Last year, Super Bowl XLIX on NBC drew a record 114.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen, as the New England Patriots sealed a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks with a last-minute end zone interception. NBC’s free live stream of the game averaged 800,000 online viewers, according to Adobe Analytics.
Online viewership is likely to go up as a growing number of pay-TV viewers cut the cable cord for Internet video streaming services. Last year, nearly 4.9 million U.S. households dropped pay TV services, according to research firm eMarketer, which projected one in five households will not subscribe to cable or satellite TV by 2018.
Tim Hanlon, Chicago-based managing director in the media and entertainment practice of FTI Consulting, called the commercial simulcast a smart move by CBS, which has been staking out online turf with its own streaming service.
“CBS protects itself from any challenge to the idea that there are certain audiences watching that are not counted or not seeing the advertising,” Hanlon said.
The TV audience is still expected to be huge for the big game, which is ditching Roman numerals for its golden anniversary, opting instead for the moniker Super Bowl 50.
Super Bowl ad pricing has increased by 76 percent over the last decade, making it the most expensive commercial time on TV by far, according to Kantar Media. The volume of commercials clocks in at 47 minutes of ad time in each of the last six Super Bowls, rivaling the actual game. Other trends include long-form commercials, with nearly 40 percent of the ads running 60 seconds or longer in recent games. The top five Super Bowl advertisers since 2005 are Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Chrysler and General Motors.
Chicago has a few players in Super Bowl 50, including Skittles, which is back with an ad by DDB Chicago. WeatherTech, an area car floor mat manufacturer, is returning for its third consecutive Super Bowl with an ad by Pinnacle Advertising. Buick is in the game for the first time, with an ad from the Detroit office of Chicago-based Leo Burnett.
The McDonald’s “Pay With Lovin’” ad from Leo Burnett was ranked No. 1 in last year’s Kellogg ad review, which scores commercials on effectiveness, not popularity. This year, the Chicago-area fast-food giant seems to be sitting on the sidelines, a decision that Calkins said may reflect improvements the chain has made under new CEO Steve Easterbrook in 2015.
“The Super Bowl isn’t right for every brand, every year,” Calkins said. “If you go back to January last year, McDonald’s was having incredible trouble and the Super Bowl ad was very important because it got McDonald’s back on the map and focused back on the fundamentals as a brand. And it actually seemed to give them a rather nice pop.”
A McDonald’s spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the company’s Super Bowl plans.
Last year, Skittles teased its offbeat arm-wrestling spot, “It Will Be Settled,” but did not release the 30-second commercial in advance. Skittles is joining the crowd this year by teasing and then releasing the full spot before it runs in the Super Bowl, according to sources.