While you’d be forgiven for thinking that football is the name of the game on Super Bowl Sunday, you’d also be wrong. It’s actually advertising. Advertisers will pay almost $3.5 million for a 30 second spot during their year’s big game. Is it worth it? That’s debatable. But consider that last year’s game saw $10.2 billion dollars in consumer spend, according to research from iProspect. For some comparison, Cyber Monday drove $1.25 billion in consumer spend last year.
While it’s taken some time to integrate mobile with those flashy Super Bowl ads, every year more advertisers supplement their pricey air time with short codes and calls to action. Admittedly, success for mobile has varied, but there’s no denying that viewers have their devices on them during the game. iProspect discovered that 85 percent of search queries during Super Bowl XVLV came from mobile, and Super Bowl searches increased 122 percent from 2009 to 2010 and additional 33 percent increase from 2010 to 2011.
Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer for HipCricket, is upbeat in his expectations for mobile during this year’s Super Bowl.
“I think we’re likely to look back and say that this was the year that Super Bowl viewing went from being passive to being interactive,” Hasen said, adding that it should have happened years ago.
Hasen comes to the Super Bowl with a cautious optimism, which is then tempered with a gentle bit of skepticism. He’ll be looking for the effectiveness of the mobile campaigns, which he says need to be designed with one key fact in mind: It’s a party.
For instance, Hasen has heard that over half of the TV spots during the game will be “Shazamable,” meaning there will be a call to action for viewers to use their phones to “Shazam” an ad and get additional content or offers. “That’s a good thing because you’re interacting with consumers,” Hasen says (this is the cautious optimism), “but I do have some questions about whether that’s the right environment to do Shazam.” You can guess that the last bit is the gentle skepticism.
Hasen says in the past, advertisers have been reluctant to include calls to action during the party atmosphere of a Super Bowl. Who wants to grab their phone and dial a short code or Shazam something, while they’re dashing back and forth between the TV, the bathroom and the snack table?
It’s not that calls to action can’t be successful, it’s just a matter of when, and Hasen hopes it’s this year. “We’ve got a lot of buildup and a lot of buzz that this is going to be the year of mobile with the Super Bowl, and I just want to it to be the year that it succeeds, where mobile proves to those who might not be believers that it really is the right way to go.”
The ways that a company can integrate mobile with their traditional TV spots are growing. GoDaddy will feature a QR code in their steamy new Super Bowl ad (preview below) that will take viewers to another version of the spot on their mobiles. And yet, Hasen says traditional SMS and short codes remain among the most effective ways to use mobile as a compliment to other channels.
“With a QR code, you might have a lot of people that don’t have the right scanner. We’re big believers at HipCricket of giving people multiple ways to engage,” Hasen said, “so you might give them an SMS, a QR, or you might drive them to a mobile website.”
Krishna Subramanian, chief marketing officer for Velti, a company that makes mobile engagement solutions for advertisers, says people are used to short codes, which means they know what to do when they see one, but he says QR codes also reach particular segment of early adopters that might be particularly valuable to a given advertiser.
But Submaranian says there are other emerging ways of coaxing engagement from viewers that we’ll see in the near future. Think augmented reality.
“Advertisers might leverage the phone camera within the actual ad on TV…How do you leverage that device to really make them feel like they’re part of the commercial?”
Velti just published the results of a poll it commissioned through Harris Interactive that surveyed over 1400 adults who have mobile phones and plan to watch this year’s Super Bowl. Of those polled, 30 percent of viewers under the age of 45 will be watching the game with their mobile in hand, and about half of all viewers age 18 or older (47 percent) say they expect to check or use their mobile phone up to 10 times during the game.
The question for advertisers is whether those viewers will just be texting a friend or scanning a QR code at halftime. A lot of brands are wagering millions that users will be using their smartphones on Sunday to do the latter.