Advertisers during Super Bowl XLVII will pay an unprecedented $3.7 million per 30-second spot for the privilege of putting their products in front of 100 million pairs of eyeballs, many of which tune in to the game as much for the commercials as tackles and touchdowns. But this year, much of the advertising action from auto brands will happen online as well as on screen.
In a nod to the 86 percent of television viewers who are media multi-taskers (simultaneously watching TV and using mobile devices) many of the eight automakers advertising during this year's Super Bowl will offer extended versions of their commercials online. They'll offer up variants of their commercials as memes that (the advertisers hope) will be personalized and shared among friends. Defying the tradition of game-day premieres, many of this year's Super Bowl commercials already have debuted on YouTube -- either to generate pre-game buzz or host a popularity contest to determine which spot deserves prime time play.
When 'Big Bang Theory' actress Kaley Cuoco appears as a fashionably stiletto'd genie who grants wishes to the owners of a new RAV4, she'll appear with a consumer's photo that was submitted via Instagram and Twitter and selected for the Toyota Super Bowl spot. Hyundai, which is running five game-day commercials for three different vehicles, will launch a custom social app for Facebook users to assemble their friends into Super Bowl dream teams and appear in customized videos. For its first-ever game-day commercial, Lincoln crowd-sourced the story line from comedian Jimmy Fallon's Twitter followers.
"The Jimmy Fallon spot is definitely a different approach," said David Rivers, Ford's U.S. manager of retail operations. "Our intention is for Lincoln to appeal to a different customer than where it's been over the last few years."
Fallon is not part of the Lincoln spot, which solicited the comedian's millions of Twitter followers for unusual road trip stories. Of the 6,000 Tweets Fallon received in response, five were selected and strung together in an unexpected story line involving turtles, a space ship and other road trip oddities.
It was Lincoln's idea to show the American road trip, and the new Lincoln, as an experience of individual uniqueness -- an attribute the carmaker hopes to play up as part of its re-imagination of the 90-year-old luxury brand. By piggybacking on Fallon's cred, Lincoln hopes to shear a decade from its typical 65-year-old buyer. On game day, the 30-second Fallon spot can be viewed in its longer, 90-second version at the web site, SteerTheScript.com.
"The use of social media has risen exponentially in the last couple years, and this year is just another level," said Justin Osborne, Volkswagen of America's general manager of advertising and marketing communications.
Volkswagen's Super Bowl commercial shows a young office worker so high on life after driving a Beetle that he's afflicted with a Caribbean accent. Viewers who find themselves humming along to the commercial's Partridge family classic, "C'mon, Get Happy," as sung by reggae icon Jimmy Cliff, can visit the VW web site for an E-card that lets them paste their faces into a scene that shows them tugged behind a Beetle Convertible driven by a singing Jimmy Cliff bobble head.
In addition to the 60-second spot it's airing during the game, Volkswagen is also advertising on the social networks where viewers are likely to be posting comments.
"With social networks, people know their friends are watching and evaluating and talking about the ads, and they're doing it in real time, so we're also advertising on social channels to be as much a part of the conversation as we can," Osborne said.
It used to be that social media was a polling tool. And some manufacturers still use it for that purpose. Audi used its YouTube channel to post three versions of the 60-second spot that will air in the first ad break after kickoff this Sunday. The winning spot features a dad giving his S6 sport sedan key to his teenage son, who is so emboldened from the experience that, after showing up stag on prom night, he parks in the principal's spot, kisses the prom queen and drives home with a smile on his face, despite a black eye.
Hyundai, which is running five game-day commercials, including two for its new seven-passenger Santa Fe, is taking the premise of a spot called "Team" and offering it as a customizable social experience. In the ad, a proverbial wimpy kid gathers a team of tough kids into his mom's SUV to combat the local bully. In the Find Your 7 app Hyundai launched Wednesday, customers can assemble their own Super Bowl dream teams with seven Facebook friends, each of whom is assigned a virtual seat in a Santa Fe and animated into a custom video that can be shared on social channels.
"The Super Bowl is something that delivers gigantic numbers. People are engaged in the advertising more than any other show," said Steve Shannon, Hyundai Motor America's vice president of marketing. Shannon worked with the Huntington Beach ad agency Innocean to create the Santa Fe app and spots, the second of which features the indie rock band, the Flaming Lips, who also wrote a song for the commercial.
"There's an expectation people have for Super Bowl ads to be funny, entertaining, and engaging," Shannon said. "On balance, we think that's good for the game and good for us."
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