When it comes to the Super Bowl, “the game within the game” is all those high-priced commercials. These days, they’re pre-released to gauge their popularity – before they air.
And so two days later, there’s still buzz over the ads, as big a draw for some as the action on the field. Yesterday, AdAge’s “Super Bowl Ad Review: We Laughed, We Cried, We Cringed” by Brian Braiker did a nice job of segmenting the spots (subjectively, of course) into commercials that moved us or meh’d us.
But perhaps lost in all the noise around surprising commercials by Tide, Spam, and Steven Tyler for Kia, reclaiming his youth by strangely going back in time, there was something else very interesting about some of the big shooters who coughed up $5 million to get their messages across in front of 100 million people – in real time.
You may have noticed ads from Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and Hulu, all promoting their own TV spectaculars – all of which technically compete against NBC, the network that carried the game.
In the case of Netflix, their premier of “Cloverfield” aired immediately after the Super Bowl – putting it in direct competition with NBC’s much-ballyhooed episode of “This Is Us.”
Meanwhile, HBO was hyping the much-awaited-for season 2 of “Westworld,” while Amazon was introducing its “Jack Ryan” series, based on the Jack Clancy books and starring John Krazinski from “The Office.” And not to be outdone, Hulu promoted a J.J. Abrams/Stephen King collaboration, “Castle Rock.” All these shows looked pretty damn good.
Traditionally, the Super Bowl game has presented a golden opportunity for the airing network to promote the most important shows in their lineups. And NBC took the opportunity to run several spots for their Olympics coverage.
But a story in Business Insider by Mike Shields raises the question about whether NBC is hurting their own viewership by promoting the competition – to the tune of around $20 million for these four ads.
Now, the sales manager in you may say that money is money, and that when you can sell out the Super Bowl at those prices, you take the ads from just about anybody except perhaps the Russian government. But while Netflix and Amazon were deemed to be kosher by NBC, you certainly didn’t see ads touting shows by CBS or ABC.
Somehow, those traditional networks are considered direct competitors, while streamers like Netflix and Amazon are apparently in a different category. But that doesn’t square with the way we watch TV, seamlessly surfing from network to cable to Hulu.
Obviously, these are tough calls, although you have to think the NBC Super Bowl sales task force could have sold these precious avails to less toxic advertisers.
What does this have to do with radio? This conundrum is reminiscent of what was going on a decade or so ago when Sirius and XM were buying ads on broadcast radio stations. I remember blogging at the time that this was a short-sighted strategy – selling our precious airwaves to a platform that wanted to put us out of business (“Beyond AM, Beyond FM – XM”).
Interestingly, that’s the tone of the Business Insider story: “Netflix, Amazon and HBO handed NBC Millions for Super Bowl ads – as they actively try and kill TV.”
I remember asking a radio executive back then why his stations were taking money from Sirius and XM. And as he explained to me, “They’re not going to make it anyway, so why not take their money?”
And so we segue to Techsurvey 2018, in the field right now. When we put the new questionnaire together late last year, we decided that satellite radio’s steady rise warranted more questions about how and why this platform continues to steadily move up, year after year.
That’s not to say those radio ads XM and Sirius ran years ago altered the course of satellite radio’s trajectory. But if you believe in the power of broadcast radio to build brands, all that advertising had to do something to promote this up and coming media offering.
But the larger question revolves around the question of who’s your true competition? Like NBC, radio companies view other stations on the AM and FM bands as “the enemy.” Yes, Spotify, Pandora, Audible, and Beats 1 seem more distant, and therefore less of a direct challenge.
Yet, even as audio expands, it’s still a zero sum game. Consumers only have so much available bandwidth – that is, time – in which to enjoy the audio that is all around us. New players, startups, and upstarts all want what radio has – reach, consistency, habit, dependability.
New media brands from Netflix to Amazon to SiriusXM need traditional media’s reach and impact in order to grow and maximize their positions.
Perhaps that should be a message to broadcasters on both the TV and radio sides of the aisle about their unique ability and power to shape perceptions. In radio, in particular, we’re incessantly promoting every product under the sun, but often do very little to market our own.
But that doesn’t answer the core question about legacy media and the strategic marketing of its precious asset – its air.
Or selling out?
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.