Why Super Bowl Commercials Now Have Their Own Trailers


On Sunday night, 111 million Americans watched two heavyweights slugging it out for bragging rights for the next year. That's right, it was Budweiser versus VW in the annual Super Bowl advertising free for all.

(When we say “free” we of course mean $3.5 million for 30 seconds)

For us though, the most interesting development of the year has been the amount of pre-release hoopla around the spots themselves. It is no longer enough to have the moment of “Super Bowl revelation” for the latest advertising gem - each commercial is now subject to a marketing campaign that Harvey Weinstein would be proud of.

Take VW – they had the Bark Side” dogs, building on last year’s Star Wars success. A minute-long film in its own right, the video is classed as a “teaser”, pointing to the Super Bowl Sunday date. Released two weeks before the main event, it has already drawn 11 million views into its tractor beam, and by using a tried and tested media marketing model, VW have turned advertising into event TV.

Or take Ferris Bueller, who was trailed in his own genuine teaser. Devoid of any branding, it caused a massive buzz online with 5 million viewers stopping to look around.

What was this? A sequel to perhaps the greatest 80s film of all time?

It was advertised like a media brand would advertise, why would we not think we were going to save Ferris all over again? The tongues stopped wagging as the full length 2 minute "sequel" found its way onto social media sites. Not another day off, but another car ad for Honda that, despite the disapproval of ex-1980s teenagers, has probably received more column inches across the internet than an actual sequel would have.

For us this is the latest example of brands learning from media brands. When HBO began trailing its big Scorsese-helmed drama Boardwalk Empire, over a year before its eventual transmission, it was a moment to sit up and take notice that the traditional marketing release patterns are breaking up.

Conversations can and should be started earlier - the moment of creation can itself become part of your marketing. For example, the Twitter feed of Emily Rose from Syfy’s Haven during on-location filming is great way of exciting fans in a season hiatus. Our work with FX for the Walking Dead was itself sparked by conversations about bridging gaps between series.

The days when promo campaigns are planned on 4+ ATVs aren’t completely gone but as with trailers for Super Bowl commercials, the old adage of “tell them what you are going to tell them…then tell them it…and then tell them what you told them” has never rung truer.

So who was the winner on Sunday night for you?

Charlie Mawer, Executive Creative Director, and Tony Pipes, Creative Head