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News broke last week that the wise-cracking E*trade (NASDAQ: ETFC ) baby wouldn't make his regular commercial appearance during Super Bowl XLVIII. But several other fan favorites have already announced advertising plans for a televised event so coveted that 30-second ad slots run up to $3.8 million. What companies will have Super Bowl ads running during the game? And will the price tag prove worth the investment?
The most recent Super Bowl attracted more than 108 million viewers. Prior to the game, the National Retail Federation released a survey about consumer behavior related to the big game. Over three-quarters of viewers surveyed considered Super Bowl commercials entertainment and nearly 27% considered the ads the most important part of the game.
So advertisers know the Super Bowl provides a captive audience that's paying far greater attention to ad breaks than a normal television audience. But companies still need to pull out all the stops to make the ad memorable beyond game week.
Pepsi teams sponsorship with ads
Pepsi isn't content to merely serve as the sponsor of the halftime show, which will feature Bruno Mars. According to Ad Age's newly launched Super Bowl Ad Chart, Pepsi has at least four ads planned during the game.
Two Doritos ads will come out of the company's annual "Crash the Super Bowl" contest that invites consumers to produce and submit ads. Pepsi will choose one winner and the other ad will win based on user votes. The user-generated nature of the contests offers a built-in social networking strategy -- and allows Pepsi get the best ad without the production costs.
Pepsi will also run two ads for some of its beverage products, though the details haven't been announced.
Pepsi returned as a halftime sponsor in 2013 after signing a four-year contract. Previous sponsor Bridgestone had stepped aside partly due to cost, which has been rumored at upwards of $7 million. The event's Beyonce performance marked the first time since Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction that Super Bowl officials allowed a "current" musician to perform. And Bruno Mars continues that trend and should lead to a younger demographic paying attention during the show.
Intuit's own contest has a controversial contender
Financial software company Intuit sponsored its own Super Bowl ad contest to fill the one slot it purchased in the third quarter. The "Small Business Big Game" contest asked for the stories behind small businesses and allowed users to vote. Intuit employees then cut the top-voted list down to a final four, which includes girl-oriented toymaker GoldieBlox.
The name GoldieBlox might sound familiar to music fans as the company has been fighting a copyright battle with the Beastie Boys. GoldieBlox used an adapted version of the band's song "Girls" to serve as a jingle in an ad that went viral. The Beastie Boys have never allowed for commercial use of the group's music and has decided to take legal action despite GoldieBlox removing the song. GoldieBlox countersued in the hopes that a judge would consider the song to fall under fair use parody.
So Intuit's contest will receive more press attention than usual due to the association with GoldieBlox. And that could ultimately lead to more attention paid to the company's Super Bowl ad slot.
General Motors returns after an absence
Details remain scant on General Motors' Super Bowl ad buy. But the appearance is notable because the company sat out the game in 2012 due to the ad cost, which rose about 9% between years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Why is GM coming back in 2014? The company's in the midst of rolling out a dozen new vehicles.
And General Motors pushed to the front of the news cycle with the appointment of new CEO Mary Barra -- the first woman to hold the top spot at a major U.S. automaker. The hiring story will lose traction before the Super Bowl but helps to push the image that GM has gained strength since the (newly ended) government bailout.
Foolish final thoughts
Super Bowl ad announcements will trickle in during the next month with more specific slot and financial information. But the stepping out of E*trade and the return of General Motors shows that companies carefully consider whether the high pricetag will pay off. The best returns on investment include memorable ads with a social networking strategy that will carry the message beyond the big game.
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