Is the pre-release Super Bowl ad worth it anymore?

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on February 3, 2013

I know what you’re already thinking. Absolutely. Where else can I get 7 million+ hits on a piece of owned, branded content, if not on YouTube before the big game? It’s a hard argument to convince anyone otherwise, as I don’t know any other time of the year when consumers are more open and willing to invite branded commercials into their leisure time. For that alone, the answer is probably yes.

But all the controversy around this years’ ads got me thinking. If you spent $4M to air a commercial during the game, would you put it on YouTube in advance and give critics the opportunity to pick it apart? Or, wait until it’s shown in its regular airslot without all the pundit’s comments? I know the rule of controversy – a healthy debate adds fuel, and thus, more people watching.

The commercial for Mercedez Benz featuring Kate Upton was probably filmed knowing it wouldn’t ever air and it would ride the publicity. But in defending the ad, Kate created a bigger “oops” by admitting that she doesn’t even own a car.  Compare this to the 1992 Pepsi commercial featuring Cindy Crawford which is revered as one of the best commercials in Super Bowl history.  Obviously, in the pre-YouTube era, Pepsi didn’t exactly have to wrestle with such a decision to syndicate it ahead of time or not.

Given their history of past ads, GoDaddy.com played their cards early this year. But wouldn’t a supermodel kissing a tech nerd receive more online buzz for its “shock value” had it first broken during the game? The fact that the controversy was the story lead, the effect has all been diluted before the game-time commercial. Same can be said of the Budweiser ad featuring the Clydesdales. I’d have been more interested in the storyline and it would have resonated more for me, had I not seen it already.  Maybe that’s why I loved the Jeep ad so much.  It packed an emotional wallop and it debuted during the game.

And finally, there’s Volkswagen who practically wrote the book on the pre-airing concept in the YouTube generation. “The Force” (still one of my favorites) received 13 Million views before it aired on the big game. I don’t believe VW deserved the unnecessary negative spotlight for this year’s ad, so I’m glad to see it air during the game. But I have to wonder if its shelf life was cut short merely because it was released so far in advance that pundits could pick it apart.  I really hope not.

Only time will tell if this year’s crop of ads that waited until game day to air will outrank the ones that chose to release it early.  But I have to wonder, given the response of this year’s critics, if ads of the future will continue to release their spots so far in advance or if they’re better off waiting until game day to put them up on YouTube.

By: Craig Alperowitz

Craig leads the Consumer Team at the W2O Group, responsible for a variety of CPG, entertainment and retail brands.

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