Guerrillas > Bears

Observations January 30, 2014 10:38 pm

AdAge has declared this year’s Super Bowl the year of the bear; no less than three advertisers feature bears in their spots. How do they know this? The writer, like the majority of the American population, has already seen most, if not all, of this year’s Super Bowl commercials.

I’ve danced with Ellen and three bears, smiled at a puppy/Clydesdale friendship, and congratulated Gracie on her baby brother (and puppy).

The Internet has destroyed the ‘big reveal’ that used to accompany Super Bowl ads. As a child, the big game was like Christmas to me- I would eagerly wait for the commercials each break, shushing anyone who dared to talk. Now? I provide commentary to friends when they don’t understand what Coke’s scarf-wearing polar bears are supposed to be doing.

Advertisers must realize the Internet’s growing influence to some extent– brands are practically falling over each other trying to amass the most views online before Sunday’s game. (Social buzz, social buzz!) By prereleasing their spots online, brands are using the web to extend the shelf life (and impact) of their :30 to :60 seconds ads, desperately trying to justify their $4 million spend.

To acknowledge these advertisers understand the Internet’s influence may be giving them far too much credit– if they really understood the new media landscape, they’d see that brands who can’t afford a Super Bowl spot are earning just as much buzz as them… without the huge spend. I get it. The Super Bowl has been an anchor in the advertising world for decades, a measure of success and a chance to showcase creativity. But the TV-first focus has to change, because it’s just not how consumers view content anymore. I think it’s the advertisers who DON’T have a Super Bowl spot that we should really be applauding; the ones without the insane budgets, the ones who really had to get creative and scrappy to get attention for their brand. And I think that could be said for any other major event, too, like the Olympics.

Take for example Newcastle. The beer brand isn’t advertising in the Super Bowl, but the ‘If We Made It‘ campaign is nothing short of amazing. The approach is simple: we couldn’t afford a Super Bowl spot, but this is what we would have made. The web-only campaign (correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t have cable) with Anna Kendrick as the disgruntled star who wants a major Super Bowl payout is quickly gaining traction. Released on January 28th, the video already has over 2.4M views… which, according to YouTube stats, is more than Cheerio’s buzzed about ‘Gracie’ commercial (also released January 28th). While Cheerios will earn more views during the actual Super Bowl, will the TV spot increase purchase intent more than Newcastle’s web-only spot? My bet’s on no.

Guinness is behind another great guerrilla campaign, this one for the Winter Olympics. In the ‘Barnes Sisters‘ spot, we learn about twin sisters and their journey to Sochi. I won’t ruin the ending, but it’s a tearjerker. Guinness isn’t an official sponsor of the Olympics, and as such, the official ad had to be taken down earlier this week. If was a television spot, that means you wouldn’t see it at all during the actual Olympics. But since it’s on the web, it means that there are no less than five copies (from a single YouTube search) still floating around the web for your viewing pleasure during the two weeks of the Olympics. Not being an official Olympic sponsor sure has gotten Guinness a lot of buzz… without the major ad spend.

So let’s stop making such a big deal about the Super Bowl ‘bears’ and start celebrating the ‘guerillas.’ If the Super Bowl (and other major events) are supposed to represent our industry’s best work, and that work is being upstaged by non-official sponsors,it’s time to start thinking out-of-the-box. More digital + social, less focus on a :30 sec. TV spot. More creativity with less budget. And more guerrillas, please.

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