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Play-calling questioned well beyond Super Bowl field

By Jeff Hasen

On a scale of 1-100, the risk that the Seattle Seahawks took at the end of Super Bowl XLIX sits at 379. And we know how that turned out.

On the same scale, on the risk that the telecast advertisers chose when it comes to mobilizing their marketing messages, the number rests squarely at 0.

Both caused a sleepless night in my hometown city of Seattle. And more are surely to come.

Super bawl
Please check out ESPN or the sports radio hosts for analysis on the on-field play calling. On that count, here in the Emerald City, I am speechless while writing in a Seahawks sweatshirt.

But what about the brands that spent $4.5 million and presented spots as if it was 1977, showing us puppies and Snickers transformations while ignoring the fact that more than 100 million had a mobile phone in their hand.

Yes, there were messages that were mobile-related – save your data, power your phone, buy the slickest mobile game, for example – but there were no meaningful mobile calls to action.

We simply were not asked to do anything. It was as if advertisers believed that television viewing is passive. This is despite the fact that mobile phone penetration exceeds 100 percent and that we spend hours on our devices every day, even on Super Bowl Sunday.

It feels like I have waited forever to see a Super Bowl advertiser build an opt-in database through a call-to-action that need only be a small part of a commercial.

On single days other than Super Sunday, we have seen more than 100,000 respond to a TV pitch and opt-in for ongoing communication with brands.

It was recently reported that over a holiday weekend, a retailer was able to get 300,000 customers to opt-in, and with an 85 percent redemption rate, was able to generate $7.2 million in new sales.

Touching on
My belief is that with the right trigger, a Super Bowl spot lives on well beyond the stench of putrid play-calling and uneaten nachos.

It is not hard to imagine some of that from this set of commercials.

What if in the last seconds of the ad that was instantly beloved, Budweiser urged touched viewers to save a dog and provided a keyword and short code to be contacted after the game? Do you not think the emotional string pulled would have resulted in pet adoptions?

And through the voice of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Carnival inspired us to go to sea on one of its cruises. How about getting us to our mobile devices to see more or to obtain an offer?

I did not expect to see a mobile phone in the TurboTax commercial with the Tea Party content, but we would have remembered it. In 2015, you can file your taxes via mobile, no?

Other commercials, including one for Snickers that featured 1970s characters from the Brady Bunch, disappointed for no other reason that they were as predictable as a Bill Belichick scowl at a news conference.

So, what, if anything, will make Super Bowl advertisers get more progressive? Leading marketers have told me not to hold my breath. Super Sunday is a day for “brand anthems,” not mobile calls to action, they say.

TO ME IT gets back to the question of risk.

The Seahawks have justifiably been hammered for taking too much of a goal-line chance and blowing the chance for a title.

Just what would advertisers lose if they took the last three seconds of a commercial to add a call to action for viewers to use their phones? What is the worst that could happen? No one would respond.

In Seattle and elsewhere, there is more left to consider than whether the Seahawks should have put the ball in the hands of Marshawn Lynch in the decisive moment of Super Bowl XLIX.

Jeff Hasen is founder/president of mobile consultancy Gotta Mobilize, Seattle. Reach him at [email protected]