Super Bowl XLVIII is shaping up to be most expensive in history, with tickets selling for well over $3,000. But that’s nothing compared to what advertisers are shelling out for a 30-second commercial — their bill will be in the $3 million to $4 million range.
That high price tag means companies are looking to get “the most bang for their buck” with their spots, notes Ken Wheaton, managing editor of Advertising Age. “You gotta get people talking even before the game.” To build up this critical buzz, expect to see many commercials released before the Big Game — but online, where advertisers hope they will be picked up and shared via social media, en masse. Axe Deodorant has already released its commercial, with Toyota, Audi, Volkswagen and Oikos already releasing "teasers" or trailers. These spots are basically "ads for ads," he notes.
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Releasing ads online before the Big Game is strategic for another reason — they can be more creative (and longer) than what airs during the big game. Most people remember the Volkswagen spot from 2011, which featured a child dressed as Darth Vader. Volkswagen was smart and ran a longer version online; by the time that year’s Super Bowl came around, millions of people had already seen that version. “That kind of sticks in your head as much as the 30-second version,” notes Wheaton. “It also helps that the longer version was funnier and better than the one that made it on the air.”
However, Wheaton notes that too much build-up can backfire. Jaguar’s ad this year is a high-concept one that revolves around British villains, with teasers running in the play-off. They star Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong, and directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (all Brits). “It's too convoluted and high-concept for a Super Bowl ad. It's sort of like you’ve got to watch it for two weeks to know what’s going on,” notes Wheaton. “A lot of people don’t watch the playoffs; they just watch the Super Bowl. They haven’t been keeping up with it. So they won't know what is going on."
But there are some that Wheaton is most excited for. Here are his Top 5:
1. The Budweiser Clydesdales. “This choice makes me seem like the sentimental sucker that I am, but this is at the top of my list,” claims Wheaton. Why? “This year it’s going to have a baby Clydesdale — and a puppy.”
2. Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest. Since 2006, Doritos has hosted a contest where consumers make their own ads, with the top two or three getting on air. Wheaton says that one is being viewed around Advertising Age’s offices: "The Finger Cleaner." "It's hilarious, but it's so weirdly dirty I don’t know if they’ll be able to put it on the air.” Wheaton notes that the Doritos spots are "cheap laughs" — but they're funny, nonetheless. Plus, "It's good to see what people are capable of creating outside of advertising agencies."
3. Kia. "I just don’t know about this one," he says about the car manufacturer. "I never know if they’ll be excellent — but they really do pull out all the stops and come out with these crazy ads." Wheaton points to the Kia spot from 2012 that featured Motley Crue, supermodel Adriana Lima and MMA fighter Chuck Liddell. "It was really over-the-top."
4. Coke. "They usually have something sentimental, or sappy or funny," he says. "But Coke always does a great job with a big event like the Super Bowl."
5. Chrysler. This is this year's big question mark — it's not even known whether the company has bought airtime, according to Wheaton. "They have been one of the last holdouts in terms of not saying anything about what they’re doing in the game. There is nothing online and no press release teasing who’s going to be in the ad or what it's going to be about." Wheaton notes this tactic could work in their favor: "I think people like to have some surprise left in the game. If you see it beforehand, it robs the event of some of its magic."