Social media snags
power from king of
Super Bowl ad polls
USA Today’s post-game analysis fades;
digital-video views, mentions matter more
■ BY MICHAEL LEARMONTH
WHEN RIDLEY SCOTT created Apple’s
iconic “1984,” the company’s board
didn’t want it to air. Newly hired CEO
John Sculley, veteran of many a Super
Bowl ad as CEO of Pepsi-Cola Co.,
agreed with the consensus: It’s a waste
to run an ad that doesn’t even show the
Apple ended up selling two of three
of its planned Super Bowl spots and ran
“1984” in the 60-second slot it couldn’t
unload. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Macintosh did change the world as
USA Today is marrying its
Super Bowl panel with
Steve Jobs said it would, and Apple is the
most valuable company on the planet.
The commercial also ushered in an
era in Super Bowl advertising that we
still inhabit: the ad as entertainment.
That we expect ads during the Super
Bowl to be as entertaining as the game
itself can largely be traced back to
“1984.” But if that were the end of the
story, we’d all still be watching high-concept minimovies directed by auteurs
that made us think or feel different.
But that didn’t happen, unless you
define “feeling” as what it would be like
to get served a beer by a dog or be hazed
by chimps in a board meeting. Along
the way, the Super Bowl got hijacked
by D-list celebrities, talking animals
and cheap gags—anything for a
chuckle—and that trend can be
traced to one thing: USA Today’s Ad
See AD METER on Page 20
In 1989, just a few years after
“1984,” the national newspaper
introduced a revolutionary concept—and a marketing masterstroke.
Take a small panel of people, isolate
Who doesn’t want a piece
of Big Game ad action?
While lion’s share of spend still goes to TV,
search, social networks and others cash in
■ BY BRIAN STEINBERG email@example.com
DREAMS RETAIL ISN’T usually mentioned in the same breath as Super
Bowl stalwarts Budweiser, Doritos or
even GoDaddy. But as an advertising
event, the Big Game is as important to
the company as it is to those gridiron
The difference is that Dreams Retail,
which sells sports memorabilia and
licensed sports attire, isn’t forking over
$3 million to NBC on Feb. 5. Instead, it’s
putting some of its budget against paid
search advertising, readying for a flurry
of consumers Googling “Super Bowl
shirts” or “Super Bowl jerseys” well
before they see the specially designed
apparel the winners wear in the locker
rooms after the game.
“The game is a big deal, but there’s a
lot that happens before and after the
game and even during that is actually
happening online,” said Donn Durante,
VP-marketing at Dreams Retail.
Indeed, an increasing amount of ad
dollars spent around the Super Bowl
are only tangentially related to the TV
broadcast. As more people spend part of
their day with a portable tablet at the
ready and a couple of social networks
onscreen, a bevy of media outlets that
may not have existed during the time
of Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl spot or
Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene” com-
mercial are making a grab for as much
Super Bowl marketing money as they
See SUPER BOWL GRAB on Page 18
AFIERY CRASH: William Shatner died a dramatic ad death as Priceline shifts its marketing focus.
PRICELINE KILLS THE MESSENGER
BECAUSE ADS WORKED TOO WELL
William Shatner spent 14 years as a stellar ‘Negotiator,’
but is retired as travel site moves into different direction
■ BY RICH THOMASELLI firstname.lastname@example.org
IT WAS A CASE of advertising working
That’s why Priceline.com decided to
knock off its spokesman of 14 years,
William Shatner. In the latest spot from
Butler Shine Stern & Partners, San
Francisco, a bus teeters on a bridge. Mr.
Shatner helps shepherd riders out of the
back to safety but is unable to exit in time
as the vehicle makes a fiery and spectacular crash into a ravine.
Priceline.com Chief Marketing
Officer Brett Keller said that only
Michael Jordan for Nike and Bill Cosby
with Jell-O were in Mr. Shatner’s
league as iconic endorsers. Which is
precisely why he had to be killed off.
“One of the challenges we face is
that Bill is so awesome and so closely
associated with Priceline that we needed to grab back consumers’ attention,”
Mr. Keller said.
The problem was that Mr. Shatner is
so closely identified with his character,
The Negotiator, and Priceline is moving
to focus on its fixed-price discount (at
200,000 hotels in 140 countries) instead
of the name-your-own-price business
Mr. Shatner made famous.
“Bill is the face of name-your-own-
price, and we felt we had to really get the
message out about this,” said Mr. Keller.
“The published-price segment is the
fastest-growing one for us.”
But try telling that to Mr. Shatner.
“No one was more shocked than I
was,” he told Ad Age in an interview.
He learned about The Negotiator’s
demise in traditional Hollywood fash-
ion: reading the script he was sent for
the next commercial. “After they
picked me up off the floor ... I saw what
was happening,” he said with a laugh.
Mr. Shatner made clear that he
understood the business decision. “They
wish to bring attention to the fact that
Priceline does offer another service, this
maximum discount without having to
make a bid,” he said. “That’s the reason
they’re killing off the character—to
bring attention to another part of the
(Mr. Keller’s version of the story is
somewhat different: He said he personal-
ly reached out to Mr. Shatner to tell him
See PRICELINE on Page 18