Who Owns Super Bowl Sunday? TV, NFL, Advertisers, Consumers, Social Media Participants?

Do you know where you are going to watch the big game commercials on Sunday? I still haven’t figured it out, but I do know that I could probably watch them all online right now. What’s the fun in that? Well, from a social media standpoint it’s pure advertising gold. When the ads have become more relevant to our culture than the game, I think we are turning a corner in marketing and advertising.

The Super Bowl(tm) over the last few years has gotten more and more social. Programs like @GetGlue and others are going to dominate the conversations about the Super Bowl(tm) this year, and it is not going to be about the game. It’s going to be about Doritos, Victoria’s Secret’s returning angel, GoDaddy’s insipid T&A, and a host of other 12-million-dollar-a-minute advertisers that are rolling the roulette wheel of big time advertising.

But what’s happening is the viewer is getting into the advertising game in a big way. In the last two years the ONLINE LIVE FEEDBACK SYSTEM on Super Bowl(tm) ads has been amazing. And the exponential growth of that “social” participation is not about to slow down this year. In fact, this year there will be a lot more players in the social media support role. More critical than where you will get your flat-screen TV fix for the game is where will you be WATCHING ONLINE?

So, for a second, let’s imagine we are an advertiser with a new product like Groupon in 2011, for example. And we’re going to roll big and spend some serious dollars for an ad campaign and the 6-million dollar 30-second slot in the 2nd quarter of the big game. And we’re counting on a big response. Our execs are counting on it, our shareholders and investors are counting on it. And the moment arrives and BOOM, we mess up.

Rather than being funny, the Timothy Hutton Groupon ad went down as one of the biggest NEGATIVE ADS in the history of online tracking. And it was supposed to be a joke. (Note: humor in advertising is hard, if you laugh but have no idea what the product is, it might be funny, but it won’t drive business.)

You can Google 2011 Super Bowl(tm) ad fail and I would guess the Groupon “Save Tibet” campaign will come up in the top-3 results.

So, now, back to today. People online have already started watching and voting on the Super Bowl(tm) ads online. AdWeek has already identified a WINNER. (FOR SUNDAY!) And if you look at the Twitter volume over the last few days you can spot trends of what people are excited about. Again FOR SUNDAY’S ADVERTISING, not the game. Not many people care about the game. I mean, only two teams are left, and that leaves a lot of fans a bit ambivalent on the out come of the game. I mean, if you’re team is not in the game, the most you are hoping for is a GOOD GAME and a descent HALF-TIME SHOW.

But the businesses lined up are hoping for a good game for entirely different reasons. Imagine your add runs in the 4th quarter and it’s already a runaway flop of a game. Will you get your money’s worth? (Not that any of the Super Bowl(tm) advertisers are getting their money’s worth, but it’s an annual betting fest for the advertising world.)

And now imagine that your 6 million dollar ad has already been seen 200,000 times online before the game. That’s a pretty good extension of the money and marketing you spent. And then imagine that the ads will be rated and discussed over entire week following the game, and you can see that the advertising part of the game, is bigger than the football.

As the country’s biggest TV moment, the Super Bowl(tm) sets new records each year, for money spent, influence measured, and now ONLINE PARTICIPATION AND DISCUSSIONS.

As the “advertising” game unfolds on Sunday, I will hopefully be delighted by many of the ads. I will not be pre-screening them. And there will definitely be some clunkers, like last year’s Groupon fail. And the online viewing audience will let that company know swiftly and with thousands of comments, “Your ad sucked.”

Regardless of who wins the football game, all the advertisers have the potential to win big on Super Bowl(tm) Sunday, and many of them are seeing that influence and promotional power starting as early as Monday this week.

May your campaign win. And your team, if they are still in the running, win. As long as they are the same team that I am rooting for. (Um, “who am I rooting for again?”)

I’m hoping Volkswagon scores another huge AD victory, like last year’s “Darth Vader” ad. I’m not even sure, who played football last year, but I can sure tell you the top 6 ads and the 2 biggest fails.

Good luck to all the competitors. And to both football teams, as well.


John McElhenney

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