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2014: The Year of the Anti-Super Bowl Ad Campaign

Ann Marie Taepke.

In the last four years, we have seen a brand evolution to adopt social media as a platform to stretch out their mega 30-second Super Bowl ad investments. We have seen brands introduce Twitter hashtags, leak their ads on YouTube, crowdsource their ads' content, and even try QR codes. All in an effort to drive the conversation before, after, and during the big game.

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And then in 2014, something unexpected happened and brands had a revelation. The strategy was simple: Create a Super Bowl campaign without a Super Bowl ad.  Enter the year of the Anti-Super Bowl Ad Campaign.

It began with Newcastle’s hilarious ‘If We Made It’ campaign featuring Anna Kendrick and Keyshawn Johnson, and is ending with the Esurance $1.5 Million Dollar Giveaway announced by John Krasinski. This year, Newcastle Brown Ale, Priceline, and Esurance all launched successful campaigns by not only not ponying up the ad investment, but (quite frankly) mocking it.

Traditional vs. Anti-Ad Comparison

While it might not be an entirely apples-to-apples comparison, when looking at a campaign like Esurance’s #EsuranceSave30 versus Ford’s more traditional #NearlyDouble, it’s easy to say Esurance’s strategy was more successful.

Ford launched a series of YouTube teasers and extended cuts featuring Rob Riggle and James Franco the week leading up to the big game. They also made history by airing back-to-back ads to emphasize the Ford Fusion’s nearly double fuel economy.

Esurance also released a series of teaser videos leading up to its advertisement Sunday, which aired in the first ad spot AFTER the Super Bowl. They used that ad spot to announce that they will be giving away the money the company saved by not running an ad during the game, which is $1.5 million. It's like playing the lottery, on Twitter, for free. Brilliant.

When comparing their Twitter brand and hashtag mentions, Ford only leads Esurance by a slight margin. Same goes when comparing their overall campaign views on YouTube. The kicker is that Esurance’s buzz is far from over. The #EsuranceSave30 campaign runs until Tuesday, February 4th with the winner being announced on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Wednesday, February 5th.

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Ad Parodies

Making their campaigns truly Anti-Super Bowl Ad-esque, Newcastle and Priceline both featured somewhat real-time jabs at other brands’ Super Bowl spots. Newcastle carried on their ‘If We Made It’ motif, letting viewers know how they would have made the spots ‘multi-billion dollar mega huge’… you know, by showing them as ‘multi-hundred dollar storyboards’. While Priceline did express versions of Super Bowl commercials on Vine in sock puppet form to promote their Express Deals.

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Both brands saw increases in mentions on Twitter. While Newcastle’s ad parodies only had a little over 11,000 views total, their other ‘If We Made It’ videos totaled over 8 million views.

Looking Ahead

Will the Anti-Super Bowl Ad Campaign movement be just a fad?  Or will brands jump on the bandwagon as they have done in the past with leaking ads on YouTube and utilizing hashtags? My prediction is that the brand heavyweights like Budweiser and Coca-Cola will continue along a more traditional path, while more and more brands will begin to adopt this new tactic in 2015.  I would not be surprised to see more than one brand use the Super Bowl as a springboard for a larger marketing effort as Esurance did.

What do you think of the Anti-Super Bowl Ad Campaigns?  Let us know in the comments.

Bonus: The Winners & Losers of the Super Bowl XLVIII Brand Bowl


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