With the Super Bowl just two days away, sports fans and non-sports fans alike are all talking about the other big game - the ad game.
Up until a few years ago, the only way that brands could play this game was to pony up the big bucks to buy a 30-second Super Bowl spot during the network broadcast. That cost of entry has risen to astronomical levels in the past few years and, as many have pointed out, most of them just don't work.
In the last few years, however, the digital game has become even more important than the actual Super Bowl broadcast. With such high ad buy costs, brands understandably held their ads to be revealed as a surprise for the expected 181 million viewers during the game. As online presence became more important, teaser videos became commonplace to drum up anticipation. Now, it's rare to find a brand who hasn't released their entire Super Bowl spot online, in full, up to two weeks early. It's a new necessity - a way to capture the audience early as the demand grows - as well as a surefire way to gauge the success of the ad long before the flip of the commemorative coin.
This tactic has certainly paid off for Super Bowl newcomer Jaguar, whose "Good to Be Bad" spot celebrating British villains has already garnered an impressive 4.2 million views on YouTube.
But in an age where digital is the new standard, it begs the question:
Why buy a Super Bowl spot at all?
The internet has broken down the boundaries for major event relevancy that traditional broadcast used to dominate. Now, brands can be just as successful, if not more so, when they embrace the digital space to create a timely, relevant ad of their own. Without the hefty costs of the ad buy, there's more freedom to get creative, and smaller brands who could never dream of a Super Bowl play are now on level ground with the big boys.
Recent examples include the hilarious "Behind the Scenes of the Mega Huge Football Game Ad Newcastle Brown Ale Almost Made" video featuring Anna Kendrick.
With Wes Anderson-inspired graphic treatment and a no-holds-barred script, Newcastle laughs in the face of the NFL and FOX while showing they know how to laugh at themselves. And we laugh right along with them.
Guinness jumped on this trend with their beautiful ad featuring twin U.S. biathletes Tracy and Lanny Barnes. The spot embodies everything that that makes the Olympics so uniquely inspiring. However, because Guinness is not an official sponsor of The Games, they are banned from airing any advertising featuring Olympic athletes between January 30th and February 26th. Not exactly the spirit of The Games, International Olympics Committee.
As long as traditional broadcast TV is around, big-money Super Bowl ads won't be extinct any time soon. But now brands have to compete not only with other brands whose ads air during the broadcast, but everyone who puts up a well-produced Super Bowl-related spot online as well.
The playing field has gotten much, much bigger. For advertisers, it really is anyone's game.