Why Advertisers Went Long at Super Bowl LIII

Brands like Bud Light, Burger King and Microsoft dared to go beyond the usual 30-second spot

What helped the agencies pull this thing off was that one world (Bud Light's realm) was inspired by the other. Bud Light/Game of Thrones
Headshot of Ronan Shields

Even with air time during Super Bowl LIII costing advertisers north of $5 million per 30 seconds, some brands still decided to go long. Last week, it was reported that Big Game broadcaster CBS was working with several advertisers to adjust the run time of their spots, with some looking to extend their screen time to either 45- or 60-second slots.

At the time of this writing, Adweek sources indicated that this year’s game would contain five 45-second spots, six lasting 60 seconds and three with a 90-second duration, with ads for Bud Light, Burger King, HBO, and Google, plus the upcoming Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and Toyota, all among the longer-form interludes.

The rise in longer spots points to a continuing trend. Per Kantar Media’s research, the number of spots that were 60 seconds or longer rose from 19 percent of all ads in 2017 to 31 percent a year later. Similarly, ads that were “other lengths” accounted for 3 percent of all spots in 2017 and 7 percent in 2018.

The number of ad slots with a run time of 15 seconds or less, meanwhile, accounted for 11 percent of all commercial ads during Super Bowl LII—with 6-second ad formats a popular tactic adopted from social—according to Kantar Media Research.

But 30-second slots remain the go-to option, representing 51 percent of all commercial breaks during 2018’s Big Game.

Extended spots enable marketers to engage audiences more comprehensively and can help drive share-of-voice in an increasingly cluttered environment, says David Lang, cco of Mindshare North America.

“By creating a commercial longer than the normal 30-second spot, brands have an opportunity to do just that, and they did it in many ways in tonight’s Super Bowl,” he added.

For Lang, notable among the night’s 60-second spots was Microsoft’s “We All Win,” to promote the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and Stella Artois’s long-form, lighthearted spot featuring Sarah Jessica Parker as Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and Jeff Bridges as the Dude from The Big Lebowski.

Additionally, the minute-long Bud Light and HBO collaboration to help promote the final season of  Game of Thrones received plaudits on social media, with statistics from Brandwatch indicating that as of 6 pm EST, the light-beer brand had 57,000 mentions across Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter.

What’s more, its share of the conversation spiked several times during the course of the evening’s proceedings, with its largest increase in social mentions—the largest mention spike of any brand during the game—occurring immediately after its Game of Thrones collaboration. Brandwatch data shows that social-media reaction to this 60-second spot lasted two minutes, generating a total of 4,600 social mentions across platforms.

According to Kantar Media, the cost of working media during the Big Game itself has almost doubled since 2008 in a trend that runs contra to the erosion prices for commercial air time during prime-time slots in the regular TV schedule.

This is because advertisers are mindful of the fact that traditional viewing is on the wane in favor of on-demand programming, and subsequently they’re recalibrating their approach to media buys on TV screens—including incorporating digital video, especially on social media.

They’re also adding more storytelling techniques to their repertoire because of the migration of audiences to digital channels such as streaming services, noted Tal Chalozin, CTO of Innovid, a programmatic specialist that helps brands deliver video ads online.

“In the past, the tools that advertisers could use were all fairly standard, so you could stand out either by choosing a 30-second sport or a 15-second one where you’d choose between making people laugh or want to cry, etc.,” he said.

As increasing numbers of viewers watch the Big Game on streaming services, Chalozin noted that advertisers can now include interactive tools, such as QR codes, into their campaigns to generate further leads, such as driving a visit to a brand property.

“Now you have a record amount of people that will have been watching the game via a streaming service,” he said, “and that brings new elements to the discussion [about how to tell a story].”

@ronan_shields ronan.shields@adweek.com Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.
Publish date: February 3, 2019 https://stage.adweek.com/tv-video/why-advertisers-went-long-at-super-bowl-liii/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT