The Real Winner of the Super Bowl…Owned and Earned Media?

By | February 4, 2013

I confess, I watch the Super Bowl mostly for the ads.  And after Beyonce so adeptly kicked the lip sync critics to the curb with her impromptu rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, I was interested to see what she would do next.

Sure, Super Bowl ads have launched cultural phenomonons like Budweiser’s Wazzup!, Coca Cola taking the mean out of Mean Joe Green, The Old Spice hunk and’s ode to “Middle Management” in their “When I Grow Up” spot.

At $3 million a spot, if this is the best the advertising industry has to offer, it’s no wonder that big brands are turning to owned and earned media over traditional advertising.  You might blame it on the dual screen phenomenon – but most of this year’s ads felt tired to me – and most of them I barely even remember – just 12 hours later.

While Taco Bell pulled out the proven approach of “use old people acting like young people” and got a chuckle in my family room, the ads that were more about storytelling and brand values/reputation than “selling stuff” like Dodge Ram’s We are Farmers and the much buzzed about Clydesdale horses, who haven’t struck a chord like this since Budweiser’s 9/11 spot.  I was especially proud to be a Jeep owner after watching their tribute to returning soldiers.

It is also interesting to see the trend of using those ads to prompt social media campaigns – like Lincoln’s crowd sourced #steerthesscript and Budweiser’s name the Clydesdale twitter promotion.   Oreo’s best moment was their blackout tweet, not their commercial or Instagram push.  But I have to say, those of us in PR could have activated those social media efforts for a lot less than $3 million.

The best practices of this year’s Super Bowl ads make a great case for the argument about PR being more effective than advertising:

  • Narrative and storytelling engage the viewer/reader/customer
  • Reputation first, selling stuff second
  • Celebrities only work if they are authentic to the brand – real people are often better heroes.
  • Use social to create and extend two way conversation

And PR is more cost effective, too.


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