The upcoming Super Bowl is likely to draw as much attention for its commercials as it will for the game. But what used to be the biggest advertising moment of the year is no match for ads in the digital age. Social networks and mobile media are changing the face of advertising and many are wondering what to expect next. Teressa Iezzi, editor of the online publication Creativity, tells NPR's Renee Montagne that advertisers are not abandoning old methods, but updating them to meet consumers where they are: online.
The Super Bowl itself is an example of how much has changed in the advertising industry, says Iezzi. Historically, brands would spend millions of dollars to air an ad for 30 seconds. Now, that 30-second spot is just the beginning.
Advertisers run their ads during the game, "because it's still a mass vehicle," she says. But that TV ad is a jumping off point for continued interaction on Facebook, or on Twitter, or an online contest.
"They don't just run the ad and then that's it," she says.
Companies can now be in constant communication with their consumers, whether in print, on TV, online or via mobile phones.
The hugely successful Old Spice ads featuring "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" are an example of a recent campaign that began on TV and became an online phenomenon. The commercial, which features a funny script delivered by a man with chiseled abs, has been watched online by millions and spawned countless parodies. Facilitating this kind of interaction "is the Holy Grail for marketers," Iezzi says.
Marketers have also gotten creative about providing opportunities for physical interaction with their products. Mitsubishi, for example, developed an online test-drive that allowed potential customers — sitting at home — to control an actual car driving around a track.
Following the digital revolution, many advertising agencies are looking for similar ways to bring the digital and physical worlds together. It is a new trend that is producing some of the most interesting and successful campaigns, Iezzi says. These campaigns are using the online experience to improve the overall experience for the consumer.
One campaign that attracted attention was Volkswagen's "Fun Theory," in Sweden. In addition to a website, the agency set up public installations throughout Stockholm. To encourage people to use the stairs, they set up a subway staircase to look — and sound — like a piano keyboard. (You can watch the video here.) The stairs created a fun experience for consumers that was then translated into an online campaign.
This use of multiple platforms poses a challenge to big agencies that were built around catering exclusively to television. Some of these big marketers were slow to react, says Iezzi, but Madison Avenue-style agencies are beginning to reorient themselves and expand their digital work.
"They're bringing in new kinds of talent, they're bringing in technology talent," she says, "and they're expanding their creative team … beyond just the copy writer and the art director to include interaction designers and all these different kinds of people contributing new ideas to what an ad campaign or a brand experience can be."
In a new book, The Idea Writers, Iezzi discusses the changing landscape of the brand creativity business. She predicts that the next few years will be interesting for the advertising industry, as advertisers develop more ways to use mobile media.
"Now, with smart phones and location awareness and tablets, you've got multiple screens speaking to each other," Iezzi says. "I think you're going to see a lot of the most interesting things in advertising happening with that."