Why the Super Bowl ad breaks matter to all non gridiron fans

Two things that the US public and US business take very seriously: the annual big home popcorn and beer nights of the Oscars and the Super Bowl. And ever since the iconic ‘Big Brother’ Apple ad was shown at the latter in 1984, many commentators look to the ad activity around the American Football season’s climax as indicative of wider consumer tech and media trends.

You may or may not be massively surprised that this year the noise has been around the social media aspect of the extravaganza.

Though that’s not totally new news: YouTube and Facebook have been employed in this way before, allowing punters to watch the ads they liked over and over, as well as running online polls for people to say which ones they rate or not.

(Remember that Super Bowl is such a big deal that companies will spend huge wonga on one ad that they won’t run again on TV so as to make it that much more ‘special’. It’s also probably the only day of the year in the day of hard sic recording you can be sure people will watch their tellies in linear real time – which is why Internet firms that never usually bother with such things, like Groupon, have also shelled out money to be on screen.)

But this year that’s been extended to the mobile Internet for the first time, the idea being that if someone’s got an iPhone you can all watch said ad again in the bar, and so on. YouTube is also trying out a thing called remarketing for the first time. What this does is that if you click to see an ad on its site then it will record the information and you may well see it pop up again on your screen, say next time you’re on Google.

If you’re a major brand and cheerfully splashed out $3m and change on a 30 second ad, you will work with a YouTube to get that great content reused and seen as many times as possible. If you’re a viewer and see an amusing ad – and that $3m was spent making it as amusing, memorable, impactful as possible, remember – then you’ll want to see it again, too.

Which is why an ad from yesterday’s Super Bowl is the most-viewed of all videos on YouTube – check it out here if you’re interested and see if you agree.

Not to be outdone, Facebook has a feature this time for members to vote on Super Bowl ads and there was a Twitter element, too, with all sorts of contests and goodies up for grab, both in the timeline of the game and after.

I’d expect something similar during the Oscars in a few weeks and I also think we’ll see similar things for the Olympics 2012 and (why not?) around the coverage of the Royal Wedding in April.

The fusion of TV, online and mobile is just getting more and more intense and if your company can’t see any way in to this then I would wonder what means of communicating with your audience – and what audience? – you envisage.

In the early days of on-demand TV, one US cable company CEO came out with a neat phrase he used to try and convey the excitement of all this: "In the future, you may be too busy answering the television to watch the phone." Twenty years on, that’s becoming less and less of a clever play on words and more a working description of everyday reality. Is it a reality you are in or out of?

 

Image courtesy of Adrian__ on Flickr, CC licence.

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