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Live Commercials Work—Sometimes

March 16th, 2017   ||    by Melanie Brown

Some years, it can seem like major live TV events such as the Super Bowl, function more as a national stage for brands and their advertising than it does a football game. This year’s face-off between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was both. Besides the wildly exciting, who-saw-that-coming aspects of the game itself, the commercials, as always, were on display.

Make FOMO Your Friend

In what is widely considered to be one of Super Bowl LI’s advertising flops, Snickers aired its live commercial in the third quarter of the game. Live commercials have been a growing trend for advertisers and networks as of late. With new technologies allowing viewers to skip over commercial breaks with ease, advertisers have to get more creative in order to keep eyes on the screen.

Live commercials allow advertisers to tease the spot early and grow an audience’s curiosity about its content before the spot finally airs. The tactic taps into viewers’ fears of missing out on something and makes them more likely to watch—and pay attention to—the spot. It’s the same concept as a live awards show or even the Super Bowl itself.

In September, the Emmy Awards were host to a live commercial starting Gwen Stefani and paid for by Target, according to AdWeek. The four-minute video involved over 250 crew members and seven costume changes in what was obviously an intricately planned and heavily rehearsed single take. The spot was a resounding success, and Target’s exclusive distribution of a deluxe edition of Stefani’s next album ties into and prolongs the commercial’s staying power.

Make Sure You Connect

Conversely, this year’s live Super Bowl spot for Snickers fell a little flat—especially compared to the spots it was surrounded by. At just 30 seconds, the ad began with Girls and Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Adam Driver walking onto the set and stating the halftime score in order to prove the spot was live. From there, everything goes “wrong,” and it ends with the entire set coming down after Driver bumps into it.

After weeks of teasing the “fully integrated 360 campaign” (as recounted in AdWeek), Snickers’ ad, meant to be a comedic take on “the best-laid plans of mice and men,” left viewers unimpressed. While the concept was well-intended, the short length of the ad and lack of any actual events living up to the hype rendered the “live” aspect unnecessary and ill-used. The spot came off as kitschy and boring, and the follow-up spot, also starring Driver and launched by Snickers the next day, was just as trite. Since the spot was a one-off, the comedy of the commercial’s “failure” didn’t have a chance to hit its punch line like it might have in the form of a more frequent, traditional ad.

Ultimately, the Snickers creative campaign didn’t resonate with viewers in the way that a live Super Bowl spot could have. The comedic point was there, but unfortunately, the live format wasn’t the most ideal way for it to make an impact on the audience. Live TV has generally proven its value, but live commercials on a whole may have a ways to go.

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