Super Bowl ads are only one way Twin Cities ad agencies tap into the big game
ST. PAUL—Immediately before the NFL's shield logo fills your TV screen and Super Bowl LII kicks off at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 4, a Minnesota-based bank and ad agency will air a 30-second commercial in front of an anticipated crowd of more than 100 million viewers nationwide.
The work of U.S. Bank and Carmichael Lynch is but one effort Minnesota's business community will enact with the Super Bowl in its back yard in Minneapolis. Other advertising firms have produced regional ads to air during the big game, and they will unveil "activations," or interactive events, that showcase brands while entertaining potential customers.
"It's an exciting time," said Liz Ross, CEO of Periscope, a Minneapolis ad agency. "You cannot be in advertising and not love the Super Bowl because of all that it drives. It's really the art and curation and passion within. ... Whether it's an experience on Nicollet Mall or a pop-up store or a commercial, it's all sort of the best of the best. It will be really fun to watch and take form."
The ads themselves are the most top-of-mind marketing surrounding the Super Bowl. An advertising executive from NBC Sports, which airs the game, said 30-second national commercials during this Super Bowl will cost more than $5 million, Sports Illustrated reported last week.
On top of that, one marketing executive told the New York Times last year that she recommends clients spend another 25 percent of their Super Bowl ad buy-in cost in promotion of it. The supplementation moves need to be multi-faceted rollouts that incorporate the growing trend that viewers watch the game in front of multiple screens, mainly with a phone clutched in their hand.
"What's so interesting now is it's no longer just one spot and done," said Ellie Taylor, marketing and communications director at Carmichael Lynch. "Years ago everyone waited for that moment to see the spot, and now you see spots being released weeks ahead of time. People have trailers for the spot that will eventually be released. There are whole campaigns around 30 to 60 seconds of broadcast time. That is a big development over the years."
Carmichael Lynch received praise for Subaru ads a few years ago about a Labrador retriever that keeps driving a sedan in an effort to put a puppy asleep in the back seat. The firm isn't debuting a new U.S. Bank ad for the Super Bowl. The ad is called "Escape" and was rolled out last year:
Carmichael Lynch will have a different 30-second U.S. Bank spot air in Chicago market as well as a 60-second Jack Links Beef Jerky ad air in Minnesota during the third quarter. Minneapolis agency Colle McVoy will air regional ads locally from Explore Minnesota tourism and Cenex gas stations. Cenex does business in 19 states, and its ad will air in some of those markets. The ad is being kept under wraps.
"We are keeping it a surprise until game day," said Mike Caguin, chief creative officer at Colle McVoy. "I can assure that it's going to be pretty fun."
Local ad agencies declined to share their production costs for Super Bowl ads. These numbers increase with the use of celebrities or music.
But Caguin said regional ad buys can be a fraction of a national spot, sometimes less than $100,000, and increase when more markets are added.
"If you have clients that have presence in markets regionally, it's a very efficient way to reach a lot of people," Caguin said. "But also make it feel as if they are bigger brands and bigger companies advertising nationally, too, because to a viewer you are not discerning between the two. You are watching it and wanting to be entertained."
A Super Bowl ad campaign can have marketing teams devoted to their unveiling, and lead times can range from six months to a year. Or they can be more last-minute and based on cultural events or the teams playing. "It varies from client to client," Taylor said.
The Super Bowl is one of the rare times viewers are rapt to advertising.
"You are trying to think through the context of the game and the viewership and trying to make things that are visually enjoyable to watch and whether it's beautiful shots or entertainment, use of celebrities, " Caguin said. "Also, conceptually is this a spot where we should leverage humor because that is a big part of advertising? Or is it an opportunity to express a point of view?
"Last year, there were a number of things that used the stage, if you will, to put a stake in the ground to say we as a company stand for this," Caguin added. "That is one thing that we keep in mind. Ultimately the business goals and objectives are clearly defined, so we are not just creating ads to entertain people, but we are creating ads to motivate and to purchase."
This week, the NFL rejected a proposed Super Bowl ad from American Veterans, a organization protecting those who served in the military. Part of the ad included the message to "please stand," a reference to the issue of players kneeling to take a stand on social justice issues. The NFL said the American Veterans ad was not a place for a political statement; American veterans called it "corporate censorship," according to the Washington Post.
It took a crane to stack three signature Schwan's trucks on top of each other in the Super Bowl Live area in downtown Minneapolis. It's part of Periscope's "activation" for the Minnesota-based food service business. Passersby can stop off and and play quick trivia game to win prizes and food samples.
Minnesota companies like Schwan's are seizing opportunities to showcase their brand as the Super Bowl spotlight shines down.
It's all about trying to create experiences, local ad executives say. "That is what everyone is talking about," Ross said. "I think the reality is the future of retail, and we've spent a lot of time on this at Periscope, is that people generally in the world are hungry for experiences. It's not enough to get every product delivered to your house in a cardboard box."
Periscope did a pop-up store for J.C. Penney called "Jacques Penne in the hip Tribeca neighborhood of New York City." They had former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and celebrity Nicole Richie make star appearances.
"It wasn't their holiday television commercials, but I would argue that it had more impact," Ross said. "It got passed around and people were talking about it. It was something really different for J.C. Penney to be doing and getting them out of a mall and broadening their appeal and footprint."
Periscope also is hosting a pop-up store for Hallmark at the ad agency's headquarters blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium. The Hallmark Channel will host Kitten Bowl on Nicollet Mall.
While the local Super Bowl committee is promoting a "Bold North" theme that embraces winter, Colle McVoy's activation for Explore Minnesota tourism on Nicollet Mall will feature activities you can do in the other three seasons. Caguin called it an "Instagram-able walk-through experience" in five rooms.
When a participant shares an image on Instagram or elsewhere on social media, they "become an 'influencer' for the brand," Caguin said.
Colle McVoy also will have a Cenex-sponsored "warming house" at Fulton Brewery in Minneapolis. Customers can win prizes, including Super Bowl tickets. They also have a virtual reality exhibit at the G terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport that plays off old-school national park viewfinders where tourists plug in a quarter to see vistas of Jackson Hole, Wyo. The tourism promotion is called VRnoculars.
Carmichael Lynch has worked with the Great Northern festival—the melding of the Winter Carnival in St. Paul, the City of Lakes Loppet and U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in St. Paul. They will work with Lyft to have sleigh rides in Lowertown and have set up a snow artist from France to fly in to do an installation at Target Field.
"He creates elaborate artwork in snow using snowshoes," Taylor said. "It's grandiose."
Land O'Lakes will host a "Farm Bowl" at 3M Arena at Mariucci on Feb. 1. Including former Vikings receiver Greg Jennings, farmers and athletes will all complete farm tasks like changing tractor tires, picking up hay bales and moving animal feed.
"I think brands that are a part of these larger experiences help lift their own profile into the national and international spotlight," Caguin said. "The Super Bowl has such cache. It's one of those very few, less-than-a-handful-type experiences that draw such attention. Even if it's a local activation, it's an opportunity for brands to celebrate both internally with their sales force and externally with the customers. It's a huge win for them."