February 1, 2016
Thanks to Google, Real-Time Advertising Goes Mainstream at Super Bowl 50
By James G. Brooks Jr., Founder and CEO of GlassView

With the rollout of a new product, called "Real-Time Ads," Google is opening up a new frontier for marketers, and Super Bowl 50 is a perfect time to kick off.

"Real-Time Ads" allows brands to run ads instantly across YouTube, thousands of apps and 2 million websites. As Natalie Marchant, YouTube sponsorships program manager, wrote in a blog post, the feature will let brands comment on a play that clinches the game or a "left shark" moment. Google is planning to roll out the feature widely this year.

During a live event, when viewers are dividing their attention between the TV and a second screen like a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, ads that comment on the unfolding action stand out.

Traditionally, TV ads were usually created months before a live event like the Super Bowl. However, it has always been apparent that tying into such an event can add some immediacy to a pitch. Live reads are still popular during TV programming and radio. Nearly 30 years ago, Disney realized the power of branding a moment when it got Giants Quarterback Phil Simms to utter the line "I'm going to Disney World!" after winning the game for a cool $75,000. More recently, Taco Bell offered everyone in America a free Crunchwrap for breakfast after Kansas City Royals player Lorenzo Cain stole a base during Game 1 of the World Series.

Twitter Brought Brands Into Real Time During 2013 Super Bowl

Shortly after the second-half kickoff in the 2013 Super Bowl, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans went dark for an interminable 34 minutes. As many took to social media to lob lame jokes and speculate on what was going on, one brand stepped up with a tweet that shook the marketing world:

"Power out? No problem," Oreo tweeted. "You can still dunk in the dark."

Though no one remembers the ad that Oreo spent upwards of $4 million to run during the game, three years later many still remember that tweet, which was not only well-timed but also in keeping with Oreo's sunny and puckish brand image.

To say that the tweet was a worldwide sensation though is overstating things. Last year, just 23 percent of American Internet users were on Twitter, according to Pew Research. Twitter has about 320 million monthly active users versus 1.6 billion for Facebook. Google, meanwhile, passed 1 billion monthly visitors in 2011.

How to Do Real-Time

Before rushing headstrong into this opportunity, here are some words of advice to maximize real-time:

- Make use of targeting. A Super Bowl ad is aimed at everyone, but your ad doesn't need to be. Instead, you can refine your target to an audience that's not only likely to be watching the game, but who are also fans of your brand and will understand and appreciate the reference you're making.

- Be on your toes. Oreo was able to come up with its tweet because it has assembled a war room of 15 or so clever people looking for something funny to say. As Twitter demonstrates every day though, you don't necessarily need a lot of people to come up with one-liners, just the right person or people.

- Prepare for likely scenarios. When Disney started its program with Simms in 1987, it also lined up the same deal with the opposing QB, the Broncos' John Elway, ensuring that the success rate would be 100 percent. You can't always ensure those odds, but by exploring likely scenarios you can prepare for many events and create tailor-made ads beforehand. For instance, it's likely that there will be an interception in this year's Super Bowl and it's very likely there will be at least one touchdown.

- Be strategically bold. There are people who do nothing but troll Twitter all day looking for things to be offended about. Don't help their cause by commenting on hot-button trends like race, religion and politics unless that's what your brand is about. At the same time, if your brand feels strongly about a social issue, consider weighing in, particularly if the majority of Americans shares your view. In 2015, for instance, a slew of brands commented on the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage without causing controversy.

Even following these guidelines will not necessarily spare you from controversy, but in 2016 brands need to take part in real discussions to remain relevant. They also need to take advantage of moments like the Super Bowl in which most of us will be watching and commenting on the same event. Thanks to Google, we now have a way to do so. Let's make the most of it.