MU professors discuss what to expect from Super Bowl commercials

Friday, February 3, 2012 | 7:39 p.m. CST; updated 1:19 p.m. CST, Monday, February 6, 2012

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled Danica Patrick's name.

COLUMBIA — Super Bowl Sunday is not only the biggest day in football but also the biggest day for commercial industries. Advertisers are using a number of strategies to capture viewers' attention.

Margaret Duffy, an MU strategic communication professor and CEO of MoJo Ad, said there are three main ad strategies used for reaching a young audience:


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  • Authenticity: "Young audiences expect an advertiser and a brand to live up to its claims,"  Duffy said.
  • Social networking: "This is really the first year in which the surprise factor has been taken out of the Super Bowl, and that is primarily because there is so much focus on using social networks to really attract fans from the very start," she said.
  • Humor: "In order to cut through the clutter of all the media messages that people, particularly young people, receive, you really need to use something that gets attention and often makes you smile," she said.

According to an article from The Associated Press, more than 111 million fans are expected to tune in Sunday to watch more than 70 ads air during the Super Bowl 46. Considering NBC is charging an average of $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, the competition is fierce among advertisers, according to the article. 

"It's become kind of cliche, but people watch the Super Bowl almost as much for the commercials as they do for the game," Duffy said. 

Volkswagen's 2011 ad, "The Force," released on YouTube just days before the Superbowl, has been viewed about 50 million times, according to a Bleacher Report article. Such teaser commercials prepare viewers on what ads to anticipate during the game. 

Volkswagen is trying to live up to the success of last year's advertisements by sticking with the Star Wars theme. Two teaser ads have been released on YouTube: "The Bark Side" and "The Dog Strikes Back."

This year, almost a dozen advertisers have released teaser commercials on YouTube, already creating a buzz among the social networking and digital device-addicted generation, according to the AP article.

"You spend all this money, and you may be losing the sizzle of your ad by releasing it and letting people look at it initially," Glenn Leshner MU strategic communication professor, said. Still, he said that some people who have seen an ad online might watch the game and expectantly watch for that ad, leading to "increased motivation, increased relevance, increased attention for that ad."

With more than 10 million hits, the most highly anticipated Super Bowl commercial thus far is Honda CRV's Ferris Bueller-inspired ad, with Matthew Broderick channeling again this classic role from the 1986 film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

According to an Adweek article, ad contests are another popular strategy among Super Bowl advertisers this year. Chevrolet used this approach in its Route 66 Super Bowl Ad Contest. Aspiring filmmaker Zach Borst won with his film "Chevy Happy Grad," chosen from 198 films and 400 scripts. 

As always, viewers can expect to see big-name stars in this year's Super Bowl ads including Danica Patrick*, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Matthew Broderick, Regis Philbin and Adriana Lima. The famous CareerBuilder chimps are also back for an encore this year.

"If they (advertisers) can capture a little bit of moment, a little bit of memory, a little bit of affect and affective response, then I think they may be somewhat successful," Leshner said.

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