There are a handful of precious annual rites I hold dear. Taking out the golf clubs for the first round in the spring after a long, cold winter, flipping the switch on my Christmas Tree to enjoy two weeks of hope and wonder, driving up to Lake George each year to officially kick off summer and my favorite as a veteran ad man, the lead up to Super Ad Sunday where the final two teams in football line up against each other just so we can watch the equivalent of a TV commercial talent show. From year to year one of my favorite analyses has always been: who the new advertisers will be, who is staying home, and why.
Super Bowl commercials are always expensive and this year at up to $4 million for a 30 second ride, is no different. But over the years, there has been enough financial upside to keep advertisers wanting to walk up to the wheel and give it a spin. Who can forget Monster.com's first Super Bowl ad in 1999 which catapulted the brand to number one. Children expressing their desire to grow up and get dead-end jobs "When I grow up," one youngster says matter-of-factly, "I want to be a yes man." CareerBuilders' 2005 Super Bowl ad featuring chimpanzees helped the job-listed site move past Monster.com to take the number one spot in the career-listing business. GoDaddy had a similar experience and Super Bowl XVIII 'first-timer Apple Computer's iconic 1984 ad is considered by some to be the most successful Super Bowl ad ever.
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The Super Bowl is generally the largest TV audience of any year. Last year more than 111 million watched the game and over 114 million tuned in for the half-time show. Advertisers not only get a large audience, many people actually tune in primarily to watch the TV spots and even more importantly discuss the best ones with their friends. GoDaddy, whose market share has risen to a more than 50 percent since becoming a Super Bowl advertiser, says it picks up about 5 percent market share points within 48 hours of running a Super Bowl ad. It's this kind of opportunity that has created the current queue of first time advertisers: Soda Stream, The Lincoln Motor Company, basic apparel manufacturer Gildan, Oreo cookies and Paramount Brands Wonderful Pistachios. Experts agree that if a company is able to break through the noise and create awareness for their product, deliver a clear benefit and differentiate their brand, there is a good chance that advertising during the Super Bowl can pay almost immediate dividends.
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Soda Stream is looking to position itself in a big way as a protector of the environment by bashing Coke and Pepsi and the plastic they create that wind up as waste. Oreo cookies is celebrating its 100th anniversary and has kept a tight lid on its creative. Gildan wants to be your favorite shirt and will use humor to try and position itself as a contender for that spot. Lincoln wants to raise awareness of its new name and will enlist Jimmy Fallon and crowd-sourced tweets to do it. Wonderful Pistachios are paying goo-gobs of money for the borrowed-interest of Psy's international hit Gangnam Style. Finally, Axe, which I'm surprised has never been on the Super Bowl since its combination of humor and sex-themed marketing seems tailor made for game day, will unveil its plan to literally give you a chance to go to space to impress women.
My early handicapping gives the edge to Axe as the early favorite. I'm giving Wonderful Pistachios a better than 50 percent chance of breaking through and being entertaining. Gildan probably needs to get a product benefit before they spend $4 million. Soda Stream has a point, but so far in the U.S. convenience has trumped environment and it hasn't been for lack of knowledge. Lincoln is stretching trying to create name awareness around what amounts to a contest for the best road trip Tweet. I'm afraid its goals will get lost in the translation.
What about those who will be absent? GM announced last spring that it would be out of the 2013 Super Bowl because it is too expensive. Truth is they made a rather pricey, seven year, international deal with a European soccer team which precipitated the early departure of its CMO and can't really justify the expense based on sales and other commitments. Bridgestone, who sponsored last year's half-time show, is purportedly still a little miffed about the mediocre performance from Madonna capped by an obscene gesture and expletive from guest performer M.I.A. Bridgestone remains the official tire of the Super Bowl but will not have an ad in the broadcast. Teleflora will not be in the Super Bowl. Last year it leveraged 30 percent of its ad budget to appear in Super Bowl XLVII…you don't want to do that every year. Target has invested in a Super Bowl themed social media game. These advertisers, although not in this year's ad array, are not sounding any alarms because if history is any indication, they will be back shortly, probably next year.
As the economy has crawled out of the great recession at a snail's pace, advertisers have slowly raised budgets and accelerated marketing efforts. This year will be more iterative than ground-breaking. But after a long, drawn out election, a sports strike and several disheartening cheating scandals, we are ready to gather with friends, kick back, line up the beverages, tie on the feed sack and celebrate consumerism in 30- and 60-second increments…I think that's somewhere in the Constitution.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Larry D. Woodard is CEO of Graham Stanley Advertising and the co-author of the book, "Advertising as a Branding Tool."
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