By MIKI JENNINGS
This past Sunday, I sat down to watch the Super Bowl for the first time in my life. This was dually perplexing: I’m not a sports person and advertisements generally drive me crazy.
Knowing that I would have to watch 42 minutes of commercials, I planned to see what I could glean from the televised sports event that enthralls millions of Americans each year.
The marketing side of the Super Bowl is just as famous as the game. Advertisers work to produce ads that will rake in as much money as possible. With companies spending $3 million per 30-second slot of commercial air, there is a lot of pressure to deliver.
It is not surprising that people appreciate the ads as amusing interludes between game time. Most commercials feature beer, cars and/or women, using humor and sometimes sex appeal to keep your attention, and it often works.
They are also very educational. For instance, while watching a Super Bowl commercial I learned that when confronted by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon, an ice-cold cola beverage will turn it into a harmless yet awe-inspiring fireworks-breathing dragon instead.
I also learned that sprinkled chip crumbs will act as magic powder to revive dead plants, pets and grandpas.
But it isn’t all about watching or laughing. Viewers want to be a part of the event themselves. Throughout the game, Twitter flooded with commentary, particularly after Christina Aguilera sang her botched version of the national anthem.
Likewise, during the halftime show, it seemed like all of my Facebook friends felt compelled to give reviews of the Black Eyed Peas’ performance, and simultaneously ask WTF Fergie was doing with Slash from Guns N’ Roses.
It is no longer enough to produce something humorous and expect people to sit back and watch. You have to engage the audience on multiple levels, with contests, polls and other applications of social media that put them right in the action.
Many companies are incorporating formats like Twitter and Facebook to promote products and events in innovative ways.
This February, Mercedes-Benz celebrated its 125th anniversary by holding a “Tweet Race” between four teams whose re-fueling depended upon #mentions and retweets by other Twitter users.
An Audi commercial included the first Twitter hashtag in a Super Bowl ad. The company ran a contest that viewers could enter by tweeting the hashtag and the contest’s URL.
Also for the first time, 20th Century Fox’s ad for the animated film “Rio” used an embedded code that could be used to enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to Rio de Janeiro.
This level of involvement makes the ads more like mini-games than commercials, and people eat it up.
I don’t remember much at all about the players, the coaches or the score.
At the end of the game, as streamers fluttered down to the Astroturf to announce the victory of some team or another, I knew exactly what I would take away from it all: the commercial with the Doritos guy licking chip debris off someone else’s fingers. Hot.