The Superbowl is the real start to the new year for the advertising industry.  Just as the Chinese new year comes on a delay from the celebration of January 1st, the Superbowl manages to turn public attention to advertising in a way that is far beyond the other 364 days of the year.  As the approved Go Daddy spot nicely noted – "everybody wants to be in marketing" … or at least pays attention to it, for a day.  Today on blogs, there are lots of lists of favourites and the "ad-meters" are hugely popular on YouTube, USAToday and many other outlets.  Many folks are talking about the rise of consumer generated media as the major trend to emerge out of this year’s game.  I think that’s true, but in a way that may not be often talked about.   

The most interesting thing for me was not just the fact that real people were producing ads for organizations, but that so many of the ads (consumer generated or otherwise) were so tapped into the event itself.  This is nothing new for the Superbowl – ads are produced specifically to launch during the game.  The Coke ad focusing on Black History Month, for example, noted the landmark moment of having two black head coaches in the Superbowl.  The winning NFL Network ad (which I felt was executed on poorly, but was still a great concept) focused on the end of the season and sad fans hanging up their NFL paraphanelia.  Ads like this evoked specific elements of the game, and worked better during the Superbowl not just because of the huge audience for the game, but also because they related to it.  Unfortunately, when it comes to most television advertising, there is rarely any contextual message that references the program the ad is running on. 

The problem with customizing TV ads in this way is that its just too expensive to create a diferent ad for each show or each audience.  It’s easier to repurpose one ad for multiple uses.  But what if you could get a show’s most passionate fans to do the work?  Imagine if an advertiser launched a contest to get fans of a particular show to create an ad for a product or brand to run during the show.  This has been done before – such as last year when Ford created a series of ads during the finals for American Idol where all the remaining singers did a music video together.  There was a new ad each week.  Anyone who was a fan of the show loved those ads, and never fast forwarded through them.  Of course, for American Idol, it’s easy to justify having an agency create custom ads because of the huge audience it draws (like the Superbowl) – but what about smaller niche ad buys on smaller shows?

Taking this custom approach to advertising during daytime drama, for example, could yield huge dividends.  There are many other examples as well, such as popular niche cable shows like Top Chef or ESPN Sportscenter.  Engaging consumers in television advertising is not easy these days.  Aside from the Superbowl, there are no guaranteed audiences.  Taking a customized approach to advertising, using CGM and engaging fans of shows as a core part of an advertising strategy may just be the new model for TV advertising that helps the industry find the buzz outside of the SuperBowl.