MHB WEEKLY: By the students, for the world

Football and Feature Films | January 20, 2011

The Super Bowl, now just 17 days away, is historically touted as the single biggest day of television exposure for advertisers. Last year, 106 million viewers tuned in to watch the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts — marking the single biggest TV event in the history of the medium. For FOX, the network that hosted the championship, the game brought in close to $200 million in pure advertising revenue, as each 30-second spot cost up to $3 million depending on where it fell in the broadcast.

Traditionally, the biggest Super Bowl ad providers are split into three distinct categories: the network itself, as FOX reserves close to 20 percent of airtime to push its own programming; car commercials, from the likes of Ford and Chevrolet; and beverage spots, including ads from soft drink majors like Coca Cola and Pepsi as well as the ever-popular Budweiser campaigns — the infamous lizards, the regal Clydesdales and the cheeky “Wassup!” crew have all debuted during football games. This year, however, another industry enters the fray in a major way: Hollywood.

With ads for at least 13 movies slated to air on February 6th, the movie industry is bursting onto the Super Bowl scene in record-setting fashion. (Last year, only eight films received such promotion.) During the pregame show, studios will run ads for The Eagle (Focus), Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount), Priest, Just Go With It and Battle: L.A. (Sony). Throughout the four quarters of play, two major franchises — Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Paramount’s Transformers — will promote their latest entries, while six other films will grab airtime: Rango, Super 8, Thor and Captain America (Paramount); Cowboys & Aliens (Universal); and Limitless (Relativity). Finally, during the post-game episode of FOX’s Glee, a Justin Bieber concert film and Relativity’s Take Me Home Tonight will air spots.

What exactly this means for Hollywood, however, is as of yet unclear. 20th Century FOX and Warner Bros., two of the most successful film studios in the business, continue to resist Super Bowl publicity — neither has ever run an in-game ad — because football ads “just [don’t] move the needle enough” to spend such abundant money, according to one studio executive. Nevertheless, other studios — most notably Sony and Paramount — are running ads in record numbers, and in certain cases launching campaigns for films that won’t release until the summer of 2011. Above all, one thing is certain: on the myriad “best ad” lists that run in the days after Super Bowl Sunday, traditional film trailers are highly unlikely to make the kind of waves that other ads — featuring the hilarity of Budweiser, the timelessness of Nike or the cleverness of Google (see below) — make routinely. So the issue of whether highly-viewed promos on the small screen will translate into huge box office draws at the big screen certainly remains legitimately in question.

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    Established in 2009 at USC, the Master's of Science in Human Behavior is designed to equip students with knowledge of consumer psychology, social media and market analysis skills. This is our blog. Subscribe

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