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Super Bowl buy-in

Super Bowl ads clock in at an average of $3.5 million per 30 seconds (prices vary based on when the ad shows). This is a large investment for brands, which have to budget for the ad buy itself, as well as any creative assets that supplement it.

Cars.com recently announced it had purchased ad space during the Super Bowl for the sixth year. The campaign will be overseen by the company’s newly-appointed AoR mcgarrybowen. Linda Bartman, VP of marketing for Cars.com, discusses how the company approaches a Super Bowl ad buy.

DMN: What considerations do you make when evaluating a Super Bowl purchase?

Bartman: We evaluate it every year. The thing about the Super Bowl is the audience and viewership continues to grow in the right direction. It’s up to 111 million viewers and that viewership keeps growing. In 2013 we also want to launch a new brand campaign. The Super Bowl is part of our overall marketing strategy. You have people watching specifically for the commercials.

I look at it as a sponsorship opportunity. There’s tons of pre-buzz and post-buzz. There are more legs than you would expect.

Recently, after the Super Bowl, bloggers and news sites put up lists like: Top 10 Super Bowl ads. Given that your Super Bowl creative might be replayed online after the game, does this increase the value of that Super Bowl spot?

I tend to think so. It’s like they’ve expanded how much discussion happens after the fact. You want to be in the middle of the discussion. You want to rank well. You’re in a discussion about a brand and what you’re trying to do for your advertising. It’s a way to get deeper engagement with consumers. There’s a lot you can do, particularly around social media.

How do you evaluate the success of a Super Bowl ad buy?

The process has changed as media channels have changed. The valuation is not just about the day, it’s about the PR value. It’s about the conversation pre- and post-Super Bowl. We look at that in terms of consumer engagement. We look at how our mobile takes off, as well.

What sort of changes have you noticed in your mobile traffic following the Super Bowl?

Between this year and last year our mobile traffic jumped more than 107% versus 2011. People see the spot and go to their mobile phone. That’s something that’s really taken off. People don’t just sit down and watch TV. They sit down, usually have their iPad in hand. They’re engaging in social media as they watch the spot itself.

It’s almost like a movie release.

When you’re sponsoring a sports team, you want to make sure you get the best out of it. You want something to heat up the market before, and something that continues after that amplifies the brand even more.

Now that Cars.com has purchased a Super Bowl slot, what’s the current status of its developing campaign?

We haven’t planned the campaign. We were intending to be in the Super Bowl early on. We have elements of the creative almost wrapped up. We were working on the creative since the beginning of the year. For the activation, you need to know you can buy the spot and get the inventory. You need to know you can secure the inventory.

Given the shifts in mobility and media consumption, how will Cars.com’s strategy differ this year compared to last year?

This year versus last there will be more emphasis on social media and mobile. We’ll have a more integrated campaign than we did last year, leveraging all the channels with a common creative theme throughout.

How has your social media strategy evolved?

This year we’ll start a bit earlier with the pre-activation. We’ll make sure that social media plays a much bigger role and we’ll activate it way more than we did last year. [Last year] we didn’t continue the momentum in social media.

After your Super Bowl ad premieres, do you see significant shifts in Web activity happening on Cars.com?

The day of, we get some spikes in traffic. But we don’t look at it as a one-day event. We look at it as a way to build brand engagement with consumers and raise awareness.

What’s the level of competition like when purchasing an ad spot for the Super Bowl?

It’s pretty competitive. It’s only the end of August. It’s competitive in terms of what spot you get and which quarter you’ll get.

Which quarter is best for a Super Bowl ad premiere?

There are different philosophies on that. I tend to think you want something in the beginning quarters. When people are tuned in. Whereas, if the game is 18-0, people tend to veer off in the last quarters of the game. There are a lot of different factors that go into it.

Overall, what percentage of your marketing budget is consumed by the Super Bowl slot?

The costs vary. It’s a small percent of our overall ad buy. There’s activation costs, as well. That means you buy the spot and put social media and PR plans forward either before the ad or after. But we’re building stock for the rest of the year.

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