Super Bowl Ads Just Won't Let Go
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For 364 days a year, we avoid ads. We zap them off of our computer and TV screens, filter them from our e-mail, and pay extra for ad-free content. But on Super Bowl Sunday, advertisers will have their time in the spotlight.
Half of the anticipated 130 million viewers of this year's Super Bowl will tune in just to watch the ads, according to an online survey by InsightExpress. They'll get their snacks and take their bathroom breaks during the game.
Giddy over this one-day-a-year advertising love fest, companies are betting big that viewers will also visit their special Super Bowl advertising Web sites and enthusiastically download ads onto their iPods and cell phones.
With a 30-second spot for the 2006 Super Bowl XL broadcast running $2.5 million, companies feel compelled to get the most for their money. One way to do that is to drive viewers to visit Web sites where the advertising message can continue and develop.
"The majority of the ads this year are going to be pointing people to digital destinations," Larry Weber, CEO of new-media consultancy W2 Group, told internetnews.com.
Some advertisers will woo viewers online by offering extended content, such as the director's cut of their ads, screensavers and other downloadables. The assumption is that if people like the ads they'll want to see more of them and will head to the advertisers' Web sites to willingly be pummeled with yet more sales spiels.
Pepsi's Brown and Bubbly goes live right before the Super Bowl and stars the newest hip-hop celebrity, a Diet Pepsi can that snags a recording contract. Viewers will be assured of the can's claim to fame via endorsements by P. Diddy, Jackie Chan and Jay Mohr.
CareerBuilder, famed for its "Chimps gone wild" ads in last year's Bowl, will return this year featuring more monkeys as office workers. The company, which will offer additional chimp content on its Web site, is the only .com to advertise in this year's Super Bowl.
"CareerBuilder.com was actually the first company to sign up for the 2006 Super Bowl lineup after measuring the positive impact this far-reaching venue had on our business performance," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.com, in a statement.
"Our 2005 marketing campaign contributed to a successful year that generated a revenue increase of more than 70 percent over 2004 for the first nine months, double the industry average."
Among the more elaborate attempts to extend the viewing experience comes from Burger King, which will hit the Web and cell phones with its spot featuring a 60-second song-and-dance routine starring the "Whopperettes," dancing girls dressed as burgers, flames, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes.
Shortly after the ad runs on Sunday, Sprint network customers with video service will be able to watch a longer version of the 60-second spot, which will include Whopperette outtakes. Downloads and contests will be available online.
With all the hoopla about Super Bowl ads, the face-off between advertisers has become its own sporting event.
This year, odds makers at PinnacleSports.com are taking bets on which ads will prove to be the most popular. The winner will be the one that tops USA Today's Ad Meter, which ranks the success of Super Bowl spots.
And Pennsylvania-based advertising agency Pavone will once again offer a Web site with real-time voting for best Super Bowl ads. The site offers a free downloadable score sheet to help viewers track their reactions to the ads.
Paul Murray, creative director at Pavone, said advertisers don't even have to pay big to play in the Super Bowl.
He pointed to Papa John's Pizza ads, which direct people to the company's Web site to sign up for the "Go Deep Challenge." If there's a pass on Sunday that breaks the existing record of 85 yards, everyone who signed up gets a free pizza.
"It's a great way to become part of the game without spending $2.5 million for a spot or the million to produce the spot," he told internetnews.com.
Murray added that companies have failed in their attempts to direct people to Web sites, citing McDonald's spots last year about "the Lincoln fry" -- a french fry that resembles President Lincoln that was supposedly discovered by two customers.
McDonald's placed eBay listings for the fry and launched a blog to spark viewers' interest.
"It was all too complicated," Murray said. "People didn't want to go online just to figure out the story."
Does all this trouble and expense result in real results for successful Super Bowl advertisers?
"Traditional advertisers will say they are measuring their ads qualitatively, not quantitatively," said Weber from the W2 Group.
"They get excited when USA Today says theirs was the best ad. But the Web is quantifiable. If these ads tell people to go to the site, then you can measure that. I think that should be the measure, not how many people thought the ad was funny.
"The job of a marketer today is to aggregate people," added Weber. It's not about eyeballs. It's about engagement. You want somebody to join the party for the rest of the year, not just during the Super Bowl."