9th Annual Shorty Awards

Mr. Peanut, the anthropomorphic peanut known for his top hat, monocle and cane, tragically died this week at age 104. This was of course part of an ad campaign from Planters, the American snack-food company and division of Kraft Foods. In the spot, which was produced by VaynerMedia, Mr. Peanut sacrifices himself so that his friends – including actor Wesley Snipes and comedian Matt Walsh – can survive after the peanut mobile that Mr. Peanut was driving crashed.

The ad debuted on January 21, while teaser was “leaked” on Twitter.

All this is meant as a build-up to Mr. Peanut’s “funeral,” which will reportedly be aired during next weekend’s Super Bowl.

While this is quite a morbid way to sell a salty snack, it has been successful. The “death” of the gentlemen legume from Planters has been retweeted more than 25,000 times and has more than 100,000 likes. The #RIP hashtag has been trending across social media – with fans offering condolences as well as those that offered “less kind” thoughts in a satirical way.

“Mr. Peanut is in Hell. He spent decades as the smiling face of a company that sold the boiled and roasted corpses of his people as a snack,” tweeted comedian and writer Patrick Monahan (@pattymo).

Today In: Innovation

Pre-Game Build Up

After the game and the half-time show – the latter actually not really being that old of a tradition – the ads are often a reason why people tune in. However, in recent years there has been a trend to release the ads online via YouTube or other social media services, and for good reason.

“A commercial break during the Super Bowl is the most costly 30 – 60 seconds of time a marketer will ever pay for,” said Josh Crandall, principal analyst at Netpop Resarch. “They better make the most of that slot and the best strategy a marketer can take is to stretch that time as long as possible, and that doesn’t end with the commercial anymore.”

Given the costs, and the fact that some viewers may take the opportunity for a bathroom break or to run to the kitchen, there isn’t always the return on investment by waiting until the big game. In addition, for some campaigns a build-up can convince viewers to tune in, even if their teams aren’t taking the field.

“Smart marketers build up to the moment by revealing juicy tidbits and related goodies before the commercial breaks, while saving the best morsel for the commercial itself to capitalize on the in-game moment,” added Crandall.

“Typically when you release an ad early, especially leading up to the Super Bowl, it’s best to kick off a series of sequential ads that culminate with the Super Bowl spot. It creates engagement, curiosity, and hopefully virality,” explained Adam Lee, president of Techint Labs agency, a division of AdCellerant.

“If you are releasing the same spot that will run in the Super Bowl, there are still benefits,” added Lee. “You will capture a younger, more tech savvy audience to help create buzz. So when everyone sees the ad during the game hopefully a majority of the audience has already heard about it, causing quick engagement because they want to see what everyone has been talking about.”

Building A Social Media Campaign

In many cases the ads aren’t just standalone one-offs, but part of a campaign. Promoting the ads on social media ensures that this buzz builds before and continues after the game. It also makes an impact even if the ad that airs during the game doesn’t. If the game is a blowout, and viewers tune out or if there is a “wardrobe fail” during the half-time show that steals the show, the ad money isn’t wasted.

“As smart marketers continue to stretch the opportunity as much as possible, the risks of missing a beat or deflating the moment are extreme,” noted Crandall.

“The online landscape through which they build their message is immediate, two-way, unrelenting and often vicious. Maneuvering the YouTube, Facebook and Twitterverse is challenging and marketers will recognize the mishaps of those who dared to break through before them,” Crandall explained. “It’s all on the line during the Big Game, even for the marketers. After all, a Super Bowl ad one of the last true opportunities for a mass media message that can make or break a brand in a minute.”

Lots Of Winners, Few Losers

While only one team can take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy, when it comes to ad campaigns there can often be numerous winners and few losers – unless you’re a small company that can’t really afford to take the risk on those 30 to 60 seconds.

Today social media could be the biggest winners, as those platforms don’t have to pay the NFL the big dollars and get a lot of eyeballs from those turning to the platforms to actually see ads!

“YouTube – and Google – always win, but the advertiser will too,” said Lee. “Any hyper-relevant content such as Super Bowl ads will be viewed millions of times leading to great time on site and ad revenue for YouTube, and create a new engaged audience for the advertiser,”

The fact that people actually turn to social media platforms like YouTube and sit through an ad to watch these ads is notable.

“It says high-funnel advertising is still crucial to major brands, humor always wins the Super Bowl, and it’s still an effective way to box out the competition in your key demos,” added Lee.

Does Social Media Help Sell The Product

Given the cost of an ad, Super Bowl ads can be hit or miss for the brands that buy those 30 – 60 spots. While Budweiser has long been a part of the big game, for other companies it isn’t clear if the spots really move the needle.

“The historical evidence is quite mixed on whether Super Bowl ads actually sell products or whether there’s a tangible return on ad spend,” said Greg Sterling, vice president of marketing insights at Uberall. “It’s a great, albeit extremely expensive launch pad for brand or product awareness – new products, movie releases, etc.”

Coupled with a social media campaign the Super Bowl ads can also be an effective tool to shape brand perception.

“However, the value is far less clear if actual sales are the success metric,” added Sterling. “Some brands also try to get consumers to engage in real-time or near real time (e.g., do XYZ on Instagram or Twitter), which is another way to measure ‘success’ – though that may not translate into sales. The bottom line is that the efficacy of Super Bowl ads generally is overblown but in specific cases it can be highly effective. That assumes also that the ad creative is appealing and not mediocre or embarrassing. A bad ad can do damage to brand reputation or perception as well.”

But even a bad ad could go viral. We’ll see how it plays out for Mr. Peanut.+