PR is the MVP of Super Bowl Advertising

According to Timethe average cost of running a 30-second spot this coming Sunday is $4 million – up from $3.5 million last year. How do you maximize that type of investment? Kick the PR machine into overdrive in the week leading up to – and following – the big game.

The unsung heroes behind the success of Super Bowl advertising – at least in recent years – are the PR teams that work to generate buzz, anticipation, and excitement for the ads before they air. It wasn’t that long ago that we had to wait to be surprised during commercial breaks on the big day. Now, particularly with the dollars at stake – and also in the age of social media, where buzz needs to be seeded a bit – success requires a full-on assault of all marketing disciplines.

While every marketing discipline is represented in the successful execution of a Super Bowl advertising campaign, PR deserves the MVP trophy. It’s the PR teams getting early publicity for the spots (you can watch almost every spot that’s going to air on Sunday online right now). It’s also the PR teams that have to deal with early conflicts related to advertising. For example, SodaStream had its ad rejected. Volkswagen is under some heat for their ad. Every year there are even more challenges in pulling off a successful Super Bowl execution.

It really is the Super Bowl of advertising (and PR, and social media, and search engine marketing, and insert other marketing disciplines). So while the ad agencies get all the credit for coming up with the actual ideas (though many of the ideas for this year once again revolve around getting ideas from creative consumers like you and me – Doritos and Coca-Cola both tapped the wisdom of crowds for their spots), the PR teams deserve equal praise for making those 30-seconds last for a couple of weeks.

So who are you rooting for on the big day? Take a look at the early releases for Taco BellVolkswagenCoca-ColaDoritosSodaStream, and Mercedes-Benz if you haven’t already. It’s going to be a great competition, and hopefully, the best spot will win. If this year is like recent years, it will be the best-promoted spots that get the most attention. And for that, we thank the PR teams.

What do you think? Would Super Bowl commercials generate the same amount of buzz with zero PR effort behind them? Do some ads get more credit than they deserve because they have stronger PR support? I think so.

UPDATE: I’ve watched ALL the spots I could find online and was happy to see some brands (and their agencies) are planning to keep their creativity in their pants until Sunday. I’ll give props to Chrysler, Blackberry (BBDO London), Oreo (Wieden & Kennedy), E-Trade (Grey New York – the baby is back), M&Ms (BBDO), Milk Processor Education Program (Deutsch NY), Subway, Time Warner Cable, and Samsung (72andSunny). As of this update, none of these brands have tipped their hand.

I’ll give half props to Best Buy (CP+B), Budweiser Black Crown (Anomaly), Tide (Saatchi & Saatchi), (McGarryBowen), Lincoln (Hudson Rouge), Coca-Cola (Wieden & Kennedy), Bud Light (Translation), Wonderful Pistachios (Psy will sing a new version of Gangnam Style),, Fiat, and Doritos for saving something for game day. These brands shared some element of their creativity – either as a teaser or as part of a “pick the winning spot” competition – but still left room for us to pay attention to Sunday. My vote for the Doritos spot? Despite “Fashionista Daddy” coming from my hood, I had to go with “Fetch”… hilarious.

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