Should Super Bowl Ads Be Released Online Before the Game?

Advertisers are trying to capitalize on building buzz and user engagement by screening ads before the big game, but the strategy could backfire.

By + More

The Super Bowl isn't only the most important day of the year for football—it's the most important day of the year for television advertising. Some watch the game solely for the purpose of seeing the multimillion dollar advertisements, and companies are now trying to get in on the buzz before the Super Bowl is even televised.

Companies are increasingly using the Internet, social media, and YouTube to preview commercials created for the Super Bowl. Advertisers used to work to build anticipation for the ads by keeping them undercover until the day of, but they are now trying to maximize the amount of exposure they receive by posting edited, complete, or even extended versions online. Vice President of Marketing for Pepsi Angelique Krembs said "the world has changed:"

The conversation used to happen after the game. Now, enabled by social media, there's a lot of conversation before the game about what's coming up, and we want to be the most talked-about brand in that conversation.

[See Photos: Historic Super Bowl Halftime Shows.]

Many marketers have realized sacrificing the traditional element of surprise is worth it to create more hype around their product before the Super Bowl. They are also trying lead consumers to engage with their brand, by posting contests and asking users to submit content via Facebook and Twitter. Pepsi is sponsoring Sunday's halftime show, and solicited photo submissions from fans for the chance to appear in the introduction spot that will air just before the show. Audi let users vote on how the car company should end its ad.

Yet previewing the ads could ruin some of the traditional fun associated with the built up anticipation for the spots, and companies also run the risk of exhausting the excitement surrounding their ad before it even airs. This could mean companies don't actually see any sales benefit for the up to $4 million they're shelling out for a 30 second spot, and advertisers want do all they can to maximize their return on investment.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Commercials leaked ahead of time also backfire if they don't receive positive feedback. Volkswagen is experiencing negative reaction to its commercial this year, during which a white Minnesotan drives a VW and encourages his coworkers in a Jamaican accent, "Everything will be alright." Viewers have criticized the ad as racially insensitive.

"It'll be interesting to see if that carries through and snowballs," said marketing professor Steve Noll. "That could overshadow VW's whole launch of this campaign. So there is a bit of a danger in launching these commercials early."

What do you think? Should Super Bowl ads be released online before the game? Take the poll and comment below.

This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.