Super ad shift displays new rules of engagement

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I admit it. I'm actually not sure exactly which two teams face off in Super Bowl XLIV — in fact, I had to Google the phrase "Super Bowl" while writing this editorial just to get the appropriate Roman number of this year's game, at which time I discovered the contenders are the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. I confess also had to double-check the date of the game. Hey, ask me about baseball any time.

Despite my ignorance of the most popular sport in this country, and my lack of football fever, I have always watched with interest the advertising alongside the big game, both as a marketing journalist and as a consumer. The Super Bowl ads tend to be entertaining and visually interesting. Super Bowl ads command big bucks, and this year, while the average price — $2.8 million for a 30-second spot — is less than last year's $3 million price tag, that trend continues.

Major advertisers have historically used their Super Bowl buys to debut splashy, impactful new product campaigns or reinforce a well known brand image. Think Apple Macintosh's 1984 ad, Budweiser's Clydesdale horses, Chevrolet Truck's Like A Rock and California Milk Processors Board's Got Milk? campaign.

This year, some of the biggest brand advertisers in the country are employing a different approach to Super Bowl success by incorporating direct marketing and digital marketing elements into their plan (see cover story). Marketers such as Denny's, Monster.com and Coca Cola are all debuting ads built around loyalty marketing and social media marketing strategies, ads that live beyond the big game and the boob tube. And, Pepsi didn't even advertise this year, rejecting the game spots for the first time in 23 years in order to focus on its cause related CRM and social media strategy.

Far from a Hail Mary, the game play is a conscious and deliberate effort to build consumer engagement and interaction with the marketer's brand, while also bolstering the in-house database with sign-ups connected to game day promotions and social media elements.

It is not surprising these traditionally brand-focused ads have become more direct marketing-driven. After all, CMOs are increasingly focused on ROI, customer engagement and direct response, both online and off. In fact, more CMOs are tapped these days for their direct marketing and digital expertise.. Our news analysis highlights this hiring trend. (see story, page 7)

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