The Super Bowl is an advertiser’s Oscars, the biggest stage, the chance to reach the largest possible audience. Because while TV ratings in general are declining, the Super Bowl remains one of the few live events where advertisers can reach 100+ million people with one :30 second spot.
But there’s this little thing called YouTube, and the Internet, and social media. Which makes me think advertisers are relying on Don Draper style, legacy thinking a bit too much. Many brands have found success in recent years by leveraging social and digital channels and NOT buying a Super Bowl spot, and another interesting trend is the rise of the local TV buy. This year, The Verge, Buzzfeed (on behalf of Friskies), and Newcastle are just a few of the brands making local buys.
First, let’s take a moment to pause and acknowledge that two of the spots were created by digital publishers! not agencies. Shiver.
But moving on to the main point. These local spots cost a fraction of a Super Bowl buy; a national buy this year costs an average of $4.5 million dollars, yet The Verge paid a mere $700 for it’s spot in Helena, Montana. But The Verge, Buzzfeed/Friskies, and Newcastle have all received an insane amount of press for their unique approaches. In this case, cost ≠ exposure. While local spots may sacrifice reach in terms of national TV audience, they still have a national presence on the digital stage. Case in point: one of my favorite Super Bowl commercials of all time is Will Ferrell’s Old Milwaukee ad (hard to pick just one), which is a decidedly low-budget, local spot. How did I see it, even though I don’t live in Nebraska? YouTube, and the power of social media.
Brands like Newcastle are starting to challenge the status quo of what it means to advertise during the Super Bowl–last year, the brand’s web-only “If We Made It” spot with Anna Kendrick was one of the most discussed ads, even though it didn’t air on TV and didn’t even mention the Super Bowl by name. This year, Newcastle upped the ante by crowdsourcing a mega-spot that will air on the web as well as in one local market. But why just one local market? What if, instead of making a national TV buy, a brand usurped the Super Bowl by buying multiple local spots?
I’ll admit that I know nothing about media buying, but here’s my pitch: instead of making one, epic commercial for one multi-million dollar :30 seconds, why not make 50 spots to air in 50 different local markets? This may not work for brands like Budweiser or Volvo, but for a brand like Newcastle, Old Spice, or Taco Bell who have embraced a slightly irreverent, off-the-cuff tone… why not? Yes, it would be a ton more work to produce all of those spots. And yes, I imagine buying 50 local spots is a headache. But think about it. Multiple local spots = refined targeting and the ability to tailor ads to regional tastes… even speak directly to individual consumers, a la Old Spice Twitter replies of 2010. Imagine the buzz. And just to be clear, these aren’t the epic Super Bowl spots we’re used to. These are down-and-dirty, more low fidelity spots– because if you’re producing 50 of them to avoid spending $4.5 million on a national TV buy, you got to keep costs lower.
What will Newcastle do next year? Step 1: recognize the power of social media (check, 2014). Step 2: use power of social media to crowdsource ad, give fans a sense of ownership, move from digital channels back to TV (check, 2015). Step 3: totally subvert Super Bowl rules by creating multiple local spots, that speak directly to the most influential fans. Host a competition to get a local spot, featuring the most socially vocal fan. Don’t announce local buy locations to build anticipation, congratulate fans when the spots air. (2016?)