Monday, February 2, 2009

Super game, less Super ads

NBC must be relieved, since yesterday’s SuperBowl was unexpectedly close and suspenseful. I imagine many would call it an exciting game, but not me. Initially I tuned in just to watch the ads, and at the end I was rooting for the old (37-year-old) quarterback, so the final minutes came with a (prescient) sense of foreboding for the Cardinals.

NBC also attracted a near-record SuperBowl audience of 95.4 million, only 2.2% below last year’s record.

On the revenue side, NBC was happy, selling 69 half-minute ads at $3 million each for a total of $206 million. (The missing $1m must be a rounding error). The reason there were so many house ads was they refused to discount. CBS has the game next year, so I’m guessing the discipline was to maintain their pricing power in general or for future mega sporting events.

Once upon a time, if you went to the bathroom or were late coming home, you could miss some firm’s million-dollar promotion. This year, the SuperBowl ads are available online seemingly everywhere.

A Google search for “SuperBowl ads” produced paid links for Hulu, YouTube and MySpace. The ads were also available at the NFL, NBC and WSJ (free to non-subscribers); MySpace seems to be the quickest to navigate. The has an entire section devoted to the business of the ads. (MySpace is also hosting a cross-promotion for The Boss, fresh off his 12 minute halftime fame.)

There were a lot of memorable ads. This year’s answer to “Herding Cats” would be Castrol’s “Grease Monkeys”. Two ads with memorable twists were H&R Block’s “Death and Taxes” and the Taco Bell ad about the over-eager dater. Nextel’s “Roadies” ad (complete with pyrotechnics) was on the latest in a series of effective ads reminding people about the joys of push-to-talk

I thought used its improbable story of David Abernathy to promote its tagline “confidence comes standard,” and Teleflora effectively used its talking flowers to bash Today in class, my students recalled the Teleflora ad, and also the Cheetos ad that exacted revenge on a yakking cellphone user.

Not all memorable ads are effective at selling. I really liked the two Bridgestone I saw — “Taters” (Mr. Potato Head) and “Jump Around” (moon rover) — but they were 25 seconds of entertainment and 3 seconds of branding at the end. Similarly, the GE ads for environmental friendliness were touching — particularly the “Scarecrow” — but given its stock price, it seems a waste to spend so much on consumer ads to promote B2B technologies sold in a few niche markets.

On the pure brand-building ads, it was Coke vs. Pepsi and Bud vs. itself. The best Pepsi ad was “Forever Young” with both Bob Dylan and Hip Hop artist Coke updated its Mean Joe Greene ad with Troy Polamalu, but it was more satirical than touching. Both companies had hits and misses, as did Budweiser, which this year seemed to emphasize the Clydesdales (while BudBowl remains direct-to-web).

In some cases, I couldn’t see why they bothered. The eTrade talking baby is getting old. Unlike the WSJ, I thought wasted its money compared to rival CareerBuilder, which had an ad that was both grabby and motivated job-seekers to give it a try.

Apparently I was the only person not to have 3D glasses, so the SoBe ad fizzled for me. However, even without 3D I thought the Monsters vs. Aliens ad was compelling (with the references to Independence Day and Mars Attacks), as was the 2D “Race to Witch Mountain.”

For me, the most surprising movie ad was Land of the Lost — surprising in the sense that I’ve never previously wanted to see any Will Farrell movie. But overall, my sense is that the movie ads were only effective for those already interested in the movie, whether the remakes of Fast & Furious or Star Trek or the latest Transformers sequel.

After weeks of buildup, Gatorade G campaign seems a waste. The black & white was striking, but several of the individuals would have been worth a 30 second spot of their own, rather than 3 seconds in a cast of dozens.

NBC’s house ads were mostly mundane. One of the house ads for Conan O’Brien was even funny — funnier than his late night show usually is. And the use of Alec Baldwin (costar of 30 Rock) to promote Hulu (partly owned by NBC) — with the claim that it was a plot to rot human brains — both parlayed one of NBCs stars and brought some cachet to the 1-minute TV ad.

And what of GoDaddy? They decided to play both SuperBowl ads, but used the less effective selling tool (“Shower”) early in the broadcast and buried the more effective ad (“Baseball”) at the end. In the case of the latter, it was during a crucial break in the action — when if the game was a blowout, nobody would be walking, while in the case of a close game (as it was) the last thing people cared about was a TV ad.

Interestingly, for neither ad was the “Too Hot for TV Internet-only Version” any more racy, just longer. The Baseball ad was padded with more yakking and some of the backstory; the Shower ad added a humorous twist that was the only (semi)genuine moment in all four ads.

1 comment:

Kenneth M. Kambara said...

I got an extra pair of 3-D glasses for you complete with Intel logo slapped on the nosepiece.