One would think if a company was going to spend millions of dollars on a commercial to air during the most watch event of the year, it would also be hedging on the element of surprise. But this year that may not for some brands who have chosen – for reasons voluntary or forced upon them – to post their much anticipated ads early online.
Anheuser-Busch — a behemoth advertiser for an event that attracts their stereotypical demographic of beer drinking men – unveiled one of their Super Bowl Budweiser ads on the "Today" show Wednesday morning. In a matter of hours of being online the YouTube video of the ad, called "Puppy Love," has racked up 1.5 million page views, spurring some to wonder if other corporate heads are pondering the very same tactic. (Volkswagon and Jaguar have also posted their commercials early).
Meanwhile, SodaStream posted a cut of their Super Bowl ad, featuring Scarlett Johansson, that had raised the ire of the Super Bowl broadcasters. It may not be where your mind goes first when you see the headline "See Scarlett Johansson's Banned Super Bowl Ad," but the National Football League and Fox objected to the dig she takes at SodaStream competitors Coke and Pepsi, as Pepsi is sponsoring the game's halftime show.
"This is the kind of stuff that happens in China. I'm disappointed as an American," SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum told USA Today. But, as Variety noted, the situation may have actually worked out in the company's favor, with the unedited video already gaining traction on the web.
Viral videos and web marketing have increasingly become part of the equation of television ad campaigns.
"The objective [is] you want to multiply the effect of your advertisement," says Pradeep Chintagunta, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Super Bowl commercials gin up so much hype – inspiring talk show conversation and top 10 lists the day after – that staple brands like M&M, Volkswagon and Bud Light have also start posting teaser ads for their Super Bowl campaigns. These previews can make news themselves, as in Bud Light's case which revealed it had signed on Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But in the case of posting their entire ad ahead of Sunday night, Chintagunta says, Budweiser and SodaStream were making a wise choice but for different reasons.
For a lesser known brand like SodaStream, the goal is to achieve a level of name recognition, which can be aided if web viewers are sending around the link to the commercial.
"The benefits are bigger for an insurgent brand like SodaStream," Chintagunta says.
Budweiser is an international name and an established presence at the Super Bowl, with it and its Anheuser-Busch sister brands airing multiple commercials throughout the night. Iconic Budweiser Clydesdale horse ads like "Pupply Love" are often sentimental rather than funny and have become Super Bowl mainstay.
If a commercial has a punch line or was doing something radically different, than it would depend on the element of surprise.
"There's less to lose," Chintagunta says, in the case of "Puppy Love." "It's a feel good ad. There's no suspense being lost."
There is less to lose, and millions of views to gain.