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Super Bowl Ads: Too Early or Too Late?
By: Michael Lindquist
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By now, you’ve read plenty of articles about the Super Bowl and the big budget, over-the-top commercials that accompany one of America’s greatest televised events of the year. We have entered a time where each commercial break is filled with a few 30 to 60-second masterpieces. Hilarious talking babies and cuddly polar bears make for an entertaining evening, but was some of the magic lost when we saw familiar ads that had already been released? The early releases of certain Super Bowl commercials had the public and other advertisers asking some important questions. Why would I watch the commercial if I’ve already seen it on YouTube? What happened to that special moment when you and your friends laugh at an outrageous ad you’ve never seen before? Is the element of anticipation lost when the big budget ads are blown before Super Bowl Sunday? 

Certain advertisers were willing share their creative genius with the world because they were confident that consumers would “like” it, share it, tweet it, and retweet it. Those who gambled on early releases might have a competitive edge over other brands that made us wait for that special moment during the game. Some advertisers assume that if you release an ad before the Super Bowl, you can generate a buzz that occurs before, during, and after the game. Other brands may only be talked about during or after.

Several brands produced extended previews that go far beyond 30 seconds. Honda’s “Matthew’s Day off” spot is almost two and a half minutes long. To run the ad in its entirety during the Super Bowl would cost Honda nearly $18 million.  We saw an edited, 60-second spot during the actual game. Those who had the pleasure of seeing the full-length ad experienced multiple impressions, brand recognition, and the ability to share their enjoyment of the ad with first-time viewers. The same goes true for other brands that shot out of the gate early.

Another advantage to releasing an extended Super Bowl ad is the ability to provide exposition to the audience. Thirty seconds is not a lot of time to entertain and inform, but if an extended clip is available before the Super Bowl, advertisers can spend more time entertaining and still leave a lasting impression with the Super Bowl audience by triggering recall of the longer form. Past Super Bowl ads may have been memorable, but we had trouble remembering the brand that was being advertised.   

The ads that premiered during Super Bowl XLVI in real time were very enjoyable, and they had to live up to the expectations of those that had already been released. The element of surprise may have been greater and kept our attention, but some commercials missed their mark or came up short. When a brand is investing $3.5 million for 30 seconds of airtime, they better get it right. Those who are interested in doing the research might seek out these ads to see what they missed, but advertisers cannot rely on that to make an impression. Most viewers will watch the Super Bowl and move on after the final whistle. 

Although some of the magic may have been lost, the brands that allowed us to see their commercials before the big day generated a lot of buzz. Word of mouth, free promotions, and commercials for the commercials set the leading brands apart from the followers.  At the end of the day, advertising is meant to sell products, and then entertain. No amount of “likes” or YouTube hits will sell a car, but the brands that made the most impact might steal you away from one of their competitors in the future.


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About the Author
Michael Lindquist has a strong passion for art, entertainment, and advertising. As a child, he learned it was okay to color outside the lines, because the lines only restrict your creativity and imagination. Find him online here.
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