Super Bowl commercials are one of the most heavily anticipated and watched parts of the big game. They're also among the most expensive — an average 30-second spot this year is going for around $3.8 million.
While advertisers are banking on more than 100 million Americans seeing their commercials, at that price, they want even more. So, some companies, like PepsiCo, Kraft and Yum Brands' Taco Bell unit, are breaking the longstanding tradition of keeping the commercials under wraps until the big game and leaking them online. In some cases, it's the whole commercial, in others, it's just a teaser for the ad — or, as Jon Stewart called it on "The Daily Show," "ads for the ads."
Taco Bell posted its commercial on YouTube on the Monday before the game.
"Our ads have been watched more than 500,000 times on Twitter and Facebook" and that's before the game even airs, said Taco Bell President and CEO Greg Creed.
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Pepsi is going so far in its attempt for pre-game buzz, its offering to feature fan photos in their Super Bowl commercial. For the past two weeks, Pepsi has asked fans online and via a digital billboard in New York's Times Square, to share their photos online for a chance to be part of a 30- second spot airing just before the halftime show. The company expected to get a few thousand photos. Instead, they received over 100,000."These are really big numbers — something we really haven't seen before," said Simon Lowden, chief marketing officer of Pepsi Beverages North America.
PepsiCo is also running its Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" challenge again, where it asks fans to submit their own Super Bowl commercial and then have the public vote on the one they like best. The company said it has already received 5,600 creative submissions, the most ever in the contest's history.
"I think this will be one of the most involved campaigns we have ever had," Lowden said.
This strategy of building buzz and customer engagement before the Super Bowl has also brought some companies back into the game.
Kraft Foods has made a comeback after an eight-year absence to launch a new product during the big game.
"The brand we are featuring at this year's Super Bowl is a sports drink, MiO Fit, so what better venue than the largest sports platform?" said Doug Weekes, Kraft's vice president of refreshment beverages.
Kraft hired "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan for the spot. The ad won't be aired in its entirety before the Super Bowl, but two teasers have been released ahead of the game. The new sports drink is intended to be added to regular water to customize the drink to the consumer's taste and is designed to compete with some heavy players in the sports drink category including Gatorade and Powerade. Morgan will talk about what has changed in America along with sports drinks in the spot.
Taco Bell's commercial is also a comeback after a two-year break from the big game.
"What's different for us is that we are doing a brand ad rather than a product ad," Creed said.
Its "Live Mas" ad (mas means "more" in Spanish) features elderly people sneaking out of their retirement home at night and living it up like teenagers by partying, dancing and, yes, eating Taco Bell.
"It's not just about the game, for us it's about the game, during the game and after the game. I want all to say, Sh, Sh, Sh ... Stop, Stop, Stop — here comes the Taco Bell," Creed said, adding that the company will be giving out free Churros on Monday.
And who knows — with companies leaking their commercials ahead the Super Bowl, maybe more viewers will watch the showdown in New Orleans between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers for the game ... and not just the commercials!