ADVERTISERS that want commercials to be perceived as more than product pitches like to call them “films.” When it comes to Super Bowlcommercials, the term may be appropriate rather than pretentious.The reason for the recent departure from the decades-old strategy of keeping Super Bowl ad plans under wraps is the rise of social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They enable sponsors to more easily whetviewers’ appetites for commercials to be shown during the game.
The release of so many teasers, previews, shorter versions and longer versions before Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday seems more Hollywood than Madison Avenue. About all that is missing are directors’ cutsFor instance, Squarespace, a web design company, introduced on Jan. 16 a 15-second teaser version of the 30-second spot it plans for the Super Bowl. On Monday, six days before the game, Squarespace intends to release theSuper Bowl commercial online, on its website and on YouTube. Then, on Sunday, the company will release, on the same platforms, a 60-second version of the Super Bowl spot.
That ability to prime the pump helps Squarespace, a first-time Super Bowl advertiser, level the playing field. Not only is Squarespace going up against a larger, better-known competitor, GoDaddy, which will be a Super Bowl sponsor for the 10th consecutive year, its commercial will vie for attention with far more famous brands like Budweiser, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Doritos, M&M’s and Toyota.
“The Super Bowl for us is a risk,” said Anthony Casalena, chief executive at Squarespace in New York. “We do a lot of marketing, but it’s the first time we’ll hit a really mass consumer audience.”
The Squarespace commercials were produced internally by David Lee, the company’s chief creative officer, who previously worked at agencies like TBWA Worldwide. The goal is to proclaim “a brand manifesto,” Mr. Casalena said, “drawing a line in the sand” against “cheap web hosting” and presenting Squarespace as the solution to a dystopian web crawling with hucksters, fakes, trolls and celebrities sporting duck faces. “We can’t change what the web has become, but we can change what it will be,” an announcer says at the end of the Super Bowl spot. “A better web starts with your website.”
According to iSpot, which compiles real-time data on how commercials perform in social media, the Squarespace preview has generated what Sean Muller, chief executive at iSpot, called “modest buzz,” ranking 21st out of 25 teasers the company is tracking. Mr. Casalena said he was “really happy” with the response to date, adding, “We shall see.”
“Going into the process, I was much more nervous than I am now,” said Mr. Casalena, who described himself as someone who watches the Super Bowl each year “for the commercials.”
Audi, advertising in the Super Bowl for a seventh time, has a three-step pregame strategy. A 20-second teaser video was released last Tuesday, followed by a 45-second teaser last Thursday. The commercial intended for the Super Bowl, a 60-second spot for the 2015 Audi A3, will go online on Monday; the spot, by Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco presents the A3 as the entry-level luxury sedan that requires no compromises.
“There’s one critical thing we’ve learned: This has become the social bowl,” said Loren Angelo, director for marketing at Audi of America in Herndon, Va., which benefits Audi because “we need to bring our brand into the American conversation.”
Social media can help “make the story much bigger than the spot itself,” he added. “The more people are talking about you, the more they’re engaged with your brand; we want that ‘share value.’ ”
The growth of social media has led Audi to shift its commercial to the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII, Mr. Angelo said, from its usual slot right after kickoff. As the game goes on, “the social conversations escalate,” he explained. “It’s the perfect opportunity for us to get the best level of awareness.”
Audi is also among Super Bowl advertisers like H&M and Jaguar getting ready to create content during the game that can be fodder for social media. For instance, if the weather forces players or coaches “to make compromises,” Mr. Angelo said, comments on Twitter could remind viewers of the premise of the commercial that the A3 is “built without any compromises.”
Audi was among several brands that won kudos for timely Twitter postsduring the blackout that struck Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013. A post on the Audi Twitter feed suggested the brand was “sending some LEDs to the @MBUSA Superdome right now” — a jab at an Audi rival, Mercedes-Benz.
GoDaddy is among Super Bowl sponsors that have already released online some or all of the commercials they intend to run during the game. GoDaddy plans two spots, one in each half, and one, a 30-second commercial featuring the auto race driver Danica Patrick, was posted on Wednesday. The GoDaddy creative agency is Deutsch New York, part of the Deutsch division of the Interpublic Group of Companies.
According to iSpot and YouTube, the most-watched and most-shared of the early releases is a 60-second version of a 30-second commercial that Axe, a Unilever brand, will run in the game. The commercial, for the new Axe Peace product line, is by Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London, part of the Publicis Groupe.