While The Game’s On TV, Super Bowl Ads Play Outside

TVs aren’t boxes anymore, but if they were, the title of this article could totally be “Super Bowl Ads Go Outside The Box,” or something like that.

The evolution of how televised entertainment is consumed — extending from streaming media on the (now flatscreen) devices themselves, to desktops and laptops, to smartphones and tablets — has not only changed the traditional concept of “watching TV” (and movies) and the monetization process therein, but it has also altered and expanded the consumption of the very product that keeps the lights on for the television industry: Advertisements.

Statistically speaking, there is no televised event that provides a greater opportunity for brands to reach consumers in the U.S. than the Super Bowl. Running an ad during (or even adjacent to) the game broadcast costs a ton, but for any companies that have the dough to do so, it’s been a worthwhile investment for so long now that the once-remarkable notion of consumers “watching the Super Bowl just to see the commercials” has become a cliché, with brands and their advertising firms engaged in a contest as dramatic as (if not far more so than, depending on the year) the on-field action to determine who can present the most entertaining, engaging and talked-about spots.

If one were feeling unoriginal, one could even call the Super Bowl “the Super Bowl of Advertising.”

But while the game itself — for now, at least — remains very much linked to live broadcast television as its means of output, the NFL and the network that holds the rights to its annual championship contest (CBS, this year) are in that regard out of step with how consumers watch “TV”: in quotes because an actual TV is increasingly less involved in that process.

Last year, for the first time ever, more ads that were produced to air during the Super Bowl — 51 percent of them — were actually viewed online as opposed to on TV, as Unruly pointed out following Super Bowl XLIX.

While the NFL and broadcast networks might be too financially invested in their traditional arrangement to make any abrupt changes to it to reflect the new reality, brands, on the other hand, can’t afford not to.

Unruly shares some notable statistics regarding the shift that occurred during last year’s Super Bowl, among them that Super Bowl ads received 483.6 million online views and 9.2 million shares, and that the record 114.4 million viewers of the game’s television audience only accounted for 23.7 percent of the audience that viewed the ads online.

The Los Angeles Times makes the case that this shift in Super Bowl ad consumption — and how the true success of a brand’s advertisement ostensibly produced for the game’s viewing audience would come to be defined by their viral nature online — began in 2011 with Volkswagen’s “Star Wars”-imbued “The Force” commercial.

That spot was launched online midway through the week preceding Super Bowl XLV and had collected 11 million views by the Saturday before the game. To date, it has been watched on YouTube nearly 64 million times.

If one were feeling unoriginal, one could call it a “game changer.”

“[It] was a game changer,” Mike Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch North America, the Los Angeles branch of which created the advertisement, told the L.A. Times (perhaps, in his defense, not intending the pun). “[The] Darth Vader spot set the trend in how we measure the value of a Super Bowl commercial.”

Indeed, given the unlikelihood that even the most dedicated football fans are going to watch a recorded broadcast of any Super Bowl several hundred, never mind several million, times, the question that emerged in 2011 — Why spend top-dollar rates just to run a spot on TV once when we can we push it out ourselves online, where it could keep on getting views for years? — now has brands revisiting their advertising strategies surrounding Super Bowl 50 (possibly rebranded as such to spite Roman numerals).

Outbrain shares how, following the success of Volkswagen’s strategy in 2011, the practice of brands teasing their Super Bowl ads online in advance of the game has become the norm. Additionally, those that are willing to pay (the going rate of) $5 million on an advertisement to be broadcast in-game more frequently reach that decision only if they view the initial investment as a necessary starting point for a campaign that will extend well beyond Super Bowl Sunday.

Meanwhile, some brands’ Super Bowl campaigns this year will exist entirely outside of the game.

As CNBC reports, Pizza Hut is promoting its Golden Garlic Knots Pizza with advertisement that will run online and in some TV spots before the Super Bowl 50 broadcast — not during. And website development company Wix will be availing itself of Facebook and its ad program specifically designed for companies to market to consumers during live events, as well as Instagram and Google platforms, to promote its brand — and its Super Bowl commercial — to the large swath of consumers who will be on their mobile phones while watching the Super Bowl (last year, according to Facebook, that constituted 85 percent of the game’s audience).

A company advertising its commercial on social media while that very advertisement is playing on TV: That’s thinking outside the — never mind.


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