• Will We See Viewer Engagement in This Year’s Super Bowl Ads?

    This Sunday’s Super Bowl will once again be a showcase for great football and for compelling, creative advertising. As always, advertisers will be spending big to be in the game as the rate for a 30-second spot is approximately $5 million. Add in the cost of producing the ad and pre-promoting it, and the Super Bowl is easily the biggest single advertising investment a marketer makes.

    While the Super Bowl ads will no doubt entertain and move us, the bigger question is, will they engage us? Will they spur us do something beyond saying “Wow, that was cool!” before we shift our attention to the next ad or back to the game?

    I’ve been highlighting this question for a while as it seems to me that with Super Bowl ads getting ever more expensive, advertisers should be thinking more creatively about how to drive meaningful viewer action that builds affinity and ultimately sales. The opportunity seems even more ripe now, as millions of people already do engage online - sharing, liking and commenting on ads and content from their favorite brands. In addition, today’s political climate has driven a renewed sense of activism, presenting brands a golden opportunity to support and leverage positive messages.

    In past Super Bowl ads, the rare calls to engage mostly involve quick displays of URLs or hashtags in the ad’s closing moments. While better than nothing, they seem more an after-thought than a central part of the ad. One exception I saw 2 years ago was from Dove’s Men+Care, invited viewers to “share how care makes you stronger, with #RealStrength.” Submissions were selectively posted to its website and shared among its community.

    But based on this year’s ads that are already online, engagement seems to be once again taking a back seat. Of the ads I’ve reviewed on YouTube’s AdBlitz site, I haven’t found any that emulate the Dove Men+Care model.

    Ironically, the Budweiser ad “Born the Hard Way” depicting the immigrant story of company co-founder Adolphus Busch that’s driving the most early buzz and which could perfectly align to support activism around President Trump’s new immigration policy, isn’t meant to make a political statement, nor drive any engagement in support of immigration or opportunities America offers. The most overtly political ad I found so far is "Daughter" from Audi, which shows a girl winning a soap box derby race and espouses equal pay for equal work. But, again it doesn’t call for any engagement, instead just flashing the #DriveProgress hashtag momentarily at the end.

    Maybe I’ll be surprised and see a great ad on Sunday that explicitly urges viewers to act. But I’m not holding my breath. Advertisers and agencies seem to be hewing to the traditional “catch and release” creative approach: get the viewer’s attention for 30 or 60 seconds with something eye-catching and then allow them move on to the next ad or to the game. To me that seems like a big missed opportunity.