More than a hundred million American sports fans will be glued to their TVs this Sunday for Super Bowl XLVII. The rest of the world will be paying attention to the ads. And for good reason: This year could turn out to be the high-water mark for crowdsourced commercials.
The trend of crowdsourcing, or bringing fans into the ad’s creative process, can be traced back to 2007, when Doritos debuted its massively popular “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. Brands haven’t stopped experimenting since.
Here is a taste of crowdsourcing strategies brands are deploying for Super Bowl 2013.
Crowdsource the script
Super Bowl ad rookie Lincoln (the car company, not the U.S. president or Oscar-nominated film) will be airing a commercial based on tweets from its #SteertheScript promotion. The car brand teamed up with comedian Jimmy Fallon, who chose his favourite tweets as inspiration for the ad. The brand has been dropping occasional teasers for months now, building anticipation for the main event.
Crowdsource the ad
While Doritos is the only brand to put the entire creative process in the hands of its contestants, other brands are starting to head in that direction. Coca-Cola and Audi are each running separate ‘choose your own adventure’ style campaigns, where fans get to vote online for which ending will appear on TV.
Sometimes it’s not the crowd that decides the fate of an ad, but the network. That’s what happened to Sodastream, a home carbonation product.
The Israel-based brand had intended to break into the American market with a Super Bowl ad mocking Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but CBS (the network airing the game) disapproved of the spot.
Turns out people love controversy. The original commercial went viral on YouTube before being replaced by a toned down version, which is scheduled to run on Sunday.
Even if this social media tie-in was accidental, Sodastream has made a far bigger splash because of it.
It’s almost certain that every ad will be accompanied by a hashtag. The only question is how integrated into the campaign that hashtag will be. Toyota encouraged people to upload images of themselves on Instagram and Twitter with the #wishgranted hashtag for a chance to appear in the ad.
In the same vein, users who upload selfies with the #PepsiHalftime might appear on screen during the Pepsi-sponsored Beyonce halftime show.
Send your fans to space
Hashtags and user-generated content are likely to make an impact, but they won’t necessarily send a brand into orbit.
That’s why Axe is using their first-ever Super Bowl spot to promote the Axe Apollo Space Academy contest, in which participants compete for a chance to get flown into space. The sheer boldness of the contest has been enough to generate lots of buzz.
Gaming the crowds
It’s easy to see why brands are so committed to crowdsourcing and social media tie-ins. As Jason Therrien, President of social media marketing agency Thunder Tech explains, “If you have an emotional attachment to a commercial, you’re more likely to sit through it.”
And if brands can nurture that attachment by crafting a contest around the ad, or build anticipation through sharable teasers, then all the better.
Super Bowl ads are expensive. This year brands paid an average of $3.7 million for the privilege. For perspective, the cost of a 30-second spot a decade ago was $1.9 million.
So it’s no wonder that ad agencies and brands are pulling out all the stops to earn as many impressions as possible. Bringing campaigns online is a surefire way to do that. As Mashable reports, those ads shown before the game get 600 percent more YouTube views.
Brands love to rise above the noise, but sometimes it’s better to stick to the crowd.