Super Bowl ads thrown for loss

OPINION

  • Danica Patrick appears in this year's GoDaddy Super Bowl ad.
Danica Patrick appears in this year's GoDaddy Super Bowl ad.
January 30, 2013|By Matt Kuttan, @mkuttan | For RedEye

This is it! The one time of year everyone actually looks forward to TV commercials.

As an advertising creative director, I consider Super Bowl commercials the Holy Grail of my industry, and nobody is more glued to the TV on Sunday than I am. I literally drool over the commercials, but that's starting to change.

The hot new thing in advertising—as we've all noticed in the past couple of years—is prereleasing commercials. While brands think it's necessary, it's just plain annoying.

On my irritation scale, releasing Super Bowl commercials in advance of the game ranks alongside hearing the office blabbermouth reveal the surprise ending of the latest episode of "Downton Abbey" before you've had a chance to watch it.

We've already been bombarded with teasers for GoDaddy spots with Bar Rafaeli and Danica Patrick, as well as Kaley Cuoco shilling for Toyota. More than half of Super Bowl sponsors will show their big-budget spots on TV or the Internet prior to the actual game, according to Hulu, which compiles the ads on its AdZone website.

It all started a couple of years ago with that Volkswagen ad featuring the Darth Vader kid. Released a few days before kickoff, it crushed virally with more than 50 million views to date. Naturally, its success is being imitated by any brand that's worth its salt.

To stay ahead of their competition, sponsors now are releasing these so-called trailers earlier and earlier before game day. Their goal is to get viewers to feel like they're involved and in the know, but what it boils down to is this: We're actually at the point of watching ads for more ads that tell you to watch their commercial during the broadcast. Try untying that logic knot.

Despite the fact that I've worked in this business for many years, even I feel like I'm being scammed. I understand that the brands need to get as much exposure and buzz for the millions of dollars they're dropping for 30 seconds of airtime in front of the biggest TV audience of the year, but the side effect is taking away the equity built over the decades from entertaining surprises.

Like a director's cut from a summer blockbuster, advertisers now are creating extended versions of their commercials to be distributed via the Internet. In some cases, these longer versions actually are superior to the shortened ones we see during the Super Bowl.

From a business perspective, it all seems like fun and games for the big promoters now, but stealing viewers will have long-term ramifications as audience attention eventually drops off. This strategy will backfire soon enough.

Then again, maybe I shouldn't complain. On Sunday, I finally can start going to the bathroom during breaks in the game without being afraid of missing Kate Upton in slow motion in a Mercedes-Benz ad. I already saw that one online last week. A hundred times.

Matt Kuttan is a RedEye special contributor.

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