How Small Screens Can Be a Game Changer for Big Brands

Thinking Beyond the $5 Million Super Bowl Hail Mary

The market for this year’s Super Bowl ads has once again reached new records. 30-second slots are fetching up $5 million, a staggering 11 percent increase over last year’s price. These astronomical numbers raise the question of whether brands that are shelling out this kind of money during major TV events should be focused on capturing more than 30 or 60 seconds of our attention.

This undoubtedly becomes even more pronounced when you consider that over 70 percent of us admit to “second-screening,” or using a smartphone, tablet, or computer while “watching” TV. Just because the TV may be on doesn’t mean you’re actually watching it. Why would our habits be any different during the Super Bowl or Oscars? In fact, people maybe even faster to rush to their phones and tablets during the big game to replay and share favorite moments, chat and trash-talk on social media, or look up movie information during the Academy Awards.

Long-time Super Bowl advertisers like Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Doritos, and Coca-Cola clearly see value in spending top dollar to reach the massive Super Bowl audience. However, mobile devices have made viewers less attentive, which means it is time for smart marketers to adapt their strategy. To really make an impact during the Super Bowl and other marquee events like The Academy Awards, brands need to mount complete, cross-device, takeover campaigns.

Take Acura, which will be running its first Super Bowl spot in three years. Its ad will be visible for 60 seconds, with the hope of an afterlife online or in the “Best Of” lists on Monday morning. The company is betting that its ad spend will result in more engagement and ultimately test drives, but that ad only runs for a miniscule portion of the game. What about the rest of the time, or even during the ad while people are distracted? What can it do while its commercial is running to get people to pay attention to the brand?

By thinking beyond TV with a synced digital campaign, specifically on mobile devices, Acura and other advertisers can increase the odds of a strong return on their investment during major televised events. Reaching out to consumers on mobile enables brands to increase their share of the audience’s attention, which maybe more focused on their phones than the TV. Fortunately, today’s cross-device technology solutions can enable truly synchronized screen takeovers. What better opportunity to do so than during the biggest TV events of the year?

Brands advertising during any big TV event should leverage other channels and hit users’ devices at the same time with a related ad. Recently, Drawbridge worked with an advertiser to synchronize delivery of their digital campaign across consumers’ companion devices while TV ads ran. The combined campaign drove a 43 percent increase in engagement — something any advertiser can appreciate, especially those spending money to reach and engage audiences during the Super Bowl or Academy Awards.

This strategy would also work for any company that is not airing an ad during this year’s Super Bowl or Oscars, but that has a competitor that is. For example, Mercedes-Benz is not airing a Super Bowl commercial this year, but why shouldn’t the automaker heavy-up on mobile advertising during the game, knowing that Toyota, Kia, BMW, and Buick will have time on the TV waves?

Cross-device digital media campaigns have the added benefit of being able to track and attribute conversions, which TV advertising has long struggled to do. Following a consumer’s purchase path in a multi-device environment is challenging, but technology exists that helps marketers understand where consumers see ads versus where they convert, as well as place true global frequency caps on the number of ads shown — even across devices.

The bottom line is that the brands looking to get exposure during major events like the Super Bowl cannot afford to be making a TV-only play. There are too many devices, too many distractions, and not enough opportunities to ensure the ads get in front of the right audience. No matter the team or actor, the big winner this season will be brands that nailed the cross-device experience.

I’d love to hear what other tactics you expect brands to employ? Leave your ideas in the comment section below.

Originally published on on February 3, 2015.

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