We’re bringing back our Throwback Thursday series, where we surface memorable TV advertising moments. This week, clypd’s Alison Yobage throws it back to the 2006 Super Bowl, through the lens of TV ad sales.
As it has been in recent memory, the Super Bowl is as much about the game as it is about the ads airing in the game. Which I love, because it means the rest of America is as focused on the ads that day as I am every day. That cable news networks cover the business of the commercials right next to earnings reports from multinational corporations is something that gives me incredible joy. When the process of making and placing ads is national news, I am in a happy place.
It was not long ago that marketers did not want to talk to the press before the game. ABC aired the Super Bowl in 2006 and at this point, I had been in ad sales for ten years. ABC had also aired a Super Bowl a few years previously and none of my advertisers stepped up to buy a spot. I had one nibble from an advertiser uninterested in paying the freight for an in-game spot. They ended up buying one that aired right before kickoff. But it wasn’t in-game.
Finally in 2006, I sold a Super Bowl spot to an advertiser whose previous year’s spot ranked quite high on the USA Today Ad Meter. They had a long-running, critically acclaimed campaign that rolled out a new sports-themed creative every few months. I was so excited to have sold them spot in the game. It was a personal goal that had been in the works for years.
That year, ABC hosted an event to pre-screen the ads before the big game (with the approval of the advertisers), inviting leading press. I thought for sure my advertiser would join the media event. Their long-running ad campaign was national news as much for the ads as for the consumer spoofs of it. But as we closed in on the final details of the buy, I began to sense it wouldn’t happen. They became publicity shy and even went so far as to finalize the deal via phone, rather than email, to avoid prying eyes and pieces of paper forgotten on a printer.
In 2006, only a handful of advertisers were willing to publicly say that they had bought a spot in the game, and even fewer were willing to unveil their spots ahead of Super Bowl Sunday. The Super Bowl was largely seen as the time and place to kick off a new campaign. In fact, many advertisers went dark for a week or so before the game, meaning they did not air any TV spots, in order to maximize the impact of their spot. The Super Bowl was where campaigns were launched. Anticipation was cultivated via silence.
Look how much the ad buy playbook has changed in ten years. Now, anticipation for the big day is built by a carefully orchestrated media mix that includes teaser spots ahead of the game (Bud Light/Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan ), social media war rooms staffed by dozens and a robust presence on YouTube.
Marketing strategies have changed to include both the general sports audiences and the marketers’ target consumers, with campaigns active for weeks leading up to and leading out of the Game. Ad campaigns have a long shelf life. Viewers not only know more about what is coming in each break, they even have a chance to create the ad (Doritos).
Alison worked at ESPN/ABC Sports from 1996-2008 and attended two Super Bowls in that time. Both times, she DVR’ed the game, in order to be able to see the ads afterwards. Seeing the game in person means missing the TV experience that approximately 110M Americans enjoy.