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This Year's Super Bowl Ads Prove 30-Second One-Hit Wonders Are Dead

Instead of delighting a viewer for 30 seconds and hoping it sticks, ads this year are using it as just one small piece in an overall push for ongoing engagement.

Super Bowl ads are the reigning champs of rented attention.

Shelling out the big bucks, companies bet on those splashy precious seconds broadcast to more than a hundred million viewers. The funniest, weirdest, or perhaps most nostalgic ads are the winners, the ones you talk about for a few hours or maybe a couple days. But marketing tactics across all channels have shifted away from depending on rented attention; Super Bowl ads have followed suit, and it’s a reflection of the new world in which marketers now live.

This Year's Going to Be Different

The idea of buying some time on TV, maybe a few magazine ads, adding some billboards, and calling it a day is outright anachronistic. In today’s noisy, crowded market, rented attention on its own has become less and less effective. The name of the game for marketers now is to combine rented attention with more engaging content that’s also earned, owned, and social. In the past few years, last year especially, we saw Super Bowl ads moving in sync with this trend. And this year, we can expect to see more efforts made at long-term, owned attention than ever before.

Instead of standalone commercials, more and more Super Bowl ads are part of an integrated omni-channel campaign strategy. In some ways, it’s very similar to organizing and executing a trade-show: companies are using their Super Bowl advertising as part of a larger themed campaign, one that drives engagement before, during, and after the big event in order to maximize value. Instead of delighting a viewer for 30 seconds and hoping it sticks, ads this year are using it as just one small piece in an overall push for ongoing engagement.

How can you tell this evolution is happening?

Make it into a Super Bowl drinking game (what you drink is up to you)! See an ad that includes a campaign hashtag in the bottom corner? Drink. Commercial tells you to like them on Facebook? Drink. Ad with a cliffhanger says the story’s dramatic ending can be found on their website? Yep - drink, twice this time.

Intuit's Highly Anticipated Ad

One example from this year’s round of Super Bowl ad anticipation is Intuit QuickBooks’ Small Business Big Game Contest campaign. Starting in August -- six months in advance of the game -- Intuit invited small businesses across the country to inspire them with their story. From tons of entrants, to 20 semi-finalists, to the 4 finalists now vying for the win, people have engaged with Intuit by voting and sharing the contest across channels and through word of mouth.

Not only is the contest bringing invaluable exposure to the small businesses they chose -- including one that makes dog biscuits from the leftovers of home brewed beer and a group of friends who started a manure business aptly named “Poop”-- but the contest is also a campaign that inherently encourages long term engagement with Intuit. Customers watch the videos, share with friends, vote for their favorites, come back to the website to check results, and actively look for the winner in Intuit’s ad during the Super Bowl.

Would they have succeeded in such long-term engagement with one single standalone ad, even one focused more on their own product? Most likely not. By shifting the story to those of compelling small businesses and even using a non-branded hashtag to promote on social channels (#TeamSmallBiz), Intuit is investing in a longer-term campaign with an ultimately larger return on investment.

But Here's Where the Money Is...

These types of campaigns are a gold mine for forming ongoing relationships.

For example, most online contests like Intuit’s generally ask for your email when you cast a vote. By doing so, the company can get permission to continue connecting and building relationships with people after the initial point of interest. Once Inuit has those emails, they can engage in effective lead nurturing by sending messages whenever they want. Marketers should, however, proceed with caution.

This isn’t an opportunity to bombard prospects with promotional material. They gave you permission to keep in touch because what you had to say was engaging, and that can’t stop when the ref blows the whistle in February. Your content has to continue to be genuinely engaging and relevant to the recipient.

This year, we’ll see more of this type of marketing than ever before during the Super Bowl, and each year, we’ll continue to watch as the ads become less and less about making a one-time impression and more about sparking a relationship that lasts.

All the contests, calls to action, social prompts, and long-term campaigns are tactics to keep you engaged longer than the 30 seconds of airtime or the minutes spent the next day around the water cooler. It’s about turning hit-or-miss rented attention into long-term, personal engagement with prospects. Rented vs. owned has changed the overall marketing landscape in the last several years, and on February 2, we’ll see that change reflected in those highly anticipated Super Bowl commercial breaks.

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Last updated: Jan 20, 2014

JON MILLER | Columnist

Jon Miller leads strategy and execution for Marketo. Before co-founding Marketo, Miller was vice president of product marketing at Epiphany and held positions at Exchange Partners and Gemini Consulting. Miller holds a bachelor?s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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