Villing & Company

Ads: The New Super Bowl Pregame Show

The Super Bowl is on the horizon, and if you're a fan of one of the 30 teams not fortunate enough to be playing in the big game, you probably are as interested in the famous Super Bowl ads as you are in what happens within the game itself.

And if so, you're in luck, because these days the ads are not just confined to the game broadcast. From Volkswagen to E*Trade, many brands are actually previewing their ads on YouTube and their own websites.

Not long ago, this would have been unthinkable. The content of a Super Bowl ad was as sacrosanct as the process for making the product it was promoting. Why the shift toward removing creative sacred cows? As cliché as it sounds, I think social media has cultivated not only the tools but also the culture for such a pivot to take place.

First the tools. Look no further than the fact that the consensus best Super Bowl ad last year, Volkswagen's "The Force" spot featuring the boy playing Darth Vader, was viewed 14 million times...before the Super Bowl even kicked off. One can only imagine how many views Apple's epic 1984 spot would have garnered had YouTube, Hulu, and other online video sites been in existence then. The ease of content sharing enables allows for the quick and precise delivery of messages, whether they are videos, photos, or other pieces of content.

But brands clearly don't spend millions of dollars to bring a 30-second clip to YouTube. The added exposure a social video site can create is nice, but these Super Bowl campaigns in which the creative cat is let out of the bag early also reflect a shift in our culture. The culture shift at work here is the result of social media's inherent emphasis on sharable content that can be accessed quickly. In order for a brand to be successful in this new climate, it must continue to engage in communications in the social space that are as useful as they are well-timed. In other words (and stop me if you've heard this before), the must provide relevant, valuable content.

In the world transformed by social media, the definition of "value" is dictated by the audience, not the marketer. Audience empowerment is a defining characteristic of the post-social world, and smart brands live out its implications in every marketing decision they make, including when to release their biggest ad of the year. When we see brands reveal what was once a closely guarded creative secret a full two weeks or more prior to its airing, that's not just a move to reach a wider audience; it's also an acknowledgement of audience expectation.

This may make these Super Bowl ad sneak peeks some of the most expensive examples of content marketing out there today. But no matter. If a company increases the life of its advertising investment and at the same time drives engagement around the brand, then they've scored big time.

Filed Under: Advertising, Super Bowl

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