TIME Advertising

Save That $4 Million! 3 Smart Super Bowl Non-Advertisers

It’s debatable whether the $4 million spent to advertise during the Super Bowl is actually worth the money. This year, what with an awful, blowout of a game, it seemed like there were surely better, cleverer ways for brands to launch marketing campaigns.

Brands that had opted for an ad time slot in the second half of the Super Bowl had to be bummed. The Seattle Seahawks, who led by more than three touchdowns at halftime, scored on the second half’s opening kickoff, killing almost all hope that the Denver Broncos could make a game of it. “Eyeballs had to be disappearing – fast,” a (New York) Daily News columnist wrote. “Think how advertisers, spending a few million on 30-second spots, felt.”

They probably weren’t feeling anywhere near as good as the brands below, which skipped the $4 million Super Bowl commercial fee and wound up getting plenty of attention anyway:

Newcastle Brown Ale
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer maker, is regularly among the biggest spenders on Super Bowl commercials. This year’s game was no exception, with the company offering viewers a handful of ads, including an overhyped “are you up for whatever” Bud Light commercial and a heartwarming puppy-horse ad for Budweiser.

(MORE: The Best and Worst Super Bowl Commercials of 2014)

The Newcastle brand (owned by Heineken) went in a very different direction, delivering a series of “If We Made It” Super Bowl commercials that basically mock the idea of making (and blowing money on) Super Bowl commercials. The “faux teasers” released online mentioned that the ad campaign—which again, was never actually made—would include party sharks, skateboarding cats, and girls in bikinis battling robots through the power of dance. Most memorably, the brand featured actress Anna Kendrick in a “behind the scenes” video that went viral, in which vents about not getting a big paycheck for promoting a beer she doesn’t drink, and also discussed whether or not she was truly “beer commercial babe hot”:

J.C. Penney
After the much-celebrated Tweet by Oreos during last year’s Super Bowl was pronounced a huge success, it was expected that tons of brands would be pushing quick-thinking real-time marketing efforts via social media this year. And of course they did, bringing the possibility of awkward, mock-worthy Tweets with them.

Yet a series of company Tweets that was, in fact, mocked wound up being heralded for its cleverness once it was revealed to be a carefully planned-out ploy. During the game, J.C. Penney sent out several typo-riddled Tweets (“Toughdown Seadawks!!”), leading some to believe—and help spread the word—that the social media team was drunk or the account was hacked. Other brands responded to J.C. Penney’s odd messages: Doritos encouraged the department store team to slow down and (of course) have some Doritos, while Kia asked if @jcpenney needed a designated driver.

Turns out the “drunk Tweets” were purposefully sent out, typos and all. Eventually, it was revealed that the messages were the result of #TweetingWithMittens because the temperatures during the game were supposed to be much colder. In an event, the odd ploy earned J.C. Penney plenty of “free media,” as NPR put it, and also generated attention for the mittens it just so happened to be promoting on sale.

Esurance
In another effort tweaking the value of paying $4 million for a 30-second commercial, Esurance decided the more prudent move was to purchase the first post-game ad slot, featuring John Krasinki (Jim from “The Office”). “By doing so, we saved 30 percent, which added up to a whopping $1.5 million,” a company post explained.

(MORE: The 19 Best Super Bowl Ads of All Time)

It’s a cute concept that plays off the idea that using Esurance is supposed to help you save on insurance. And the company didn’t stop there. “Instead of just absorbing the savings,” the company explained,” why not use it to try to spread the word about how uber-efficient we are?”

Anyone who Tweets #EsuranceSave30 within 36 hours of when the original ad aired is entered to win the company’s $1.5 million savings, with the winner to be announced Wednesday on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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