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Super Bowl ads reaching beyond TV screen

Think back to the most thrilling moments of last year's Super Bowl, when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw his third touchdown or when the Pittsburgh Steelers tried for a last-gasp score with 2 minutes to go in the game.

Did you stop to ask yourself: How would the Coca-Cola polar bears react to this?

Didn't think so. Still, the soft drink giant will deploy an impressive amount of money and sweat answering that question during tonight's Super Bowl XLVI, uniting the television screen and any other platform you might use while watching the big game.

Surf to the website cokepolarbowl.com, and you'll see cute, computer-generated polar bears reacting in real time to every event in the game, with one animal wearing a red-and-white scarf for the New England Patriots and the other a white-and-blue one for the New York Giants.

Thanks to a team of writers, the bears can also respond to your tweets and Facebook messages in real time.

And when Coca-Cola ads air during the game, different versions will be chosen depending on which team is doing best at that moment.

Welcome to the latest attempt to hijack buzz from what could be the most-watched television event in history: The Super Bowl . . . of Advertising.

This year, rates for 30-second advertisements reportedly climbed to $3.5 million — up by more than $1 million from five years ago — to reach an audience topping 100 million viewers.

And with the financial stakes raised higher than ever, many marketers are turning to the buzz technology of the moment: smartphones, tablet computers and social media.

Forget about watching ads on the TV screen. Today's Super Bowl marketing is a war for access to your second screen.

"Sixty percent of people already have a second screen (in use) when watching the game," said Alison Lewis, Coca-Cola's chief marketing officer. "Our campaign unites all these screens together into one experience."

And they're not alone on this bandwagon. Chevrolet released its Game Time smartphone app which gives pizza discounts and dollars off NFL merchandise, while streaming game-related tweets, links to videos and a chance to win a free car.

The NFL will stream the game for the first time, allowing viewers to watch the action on a device which can also access tweets, Facebook messages and e-mail. Considering last year's game generated more than 4,000 tweets per second at its height, creating such platforms makes sense.

Advertisers hope buzz on social media translates into extended life for ad campaigns that they have spent millions to market and create.

So Coke's rival PepsiCo has tweaked its ad featuring Florida native and X Factor winner Melanie Amaro. Using the Shazam smartphone app, which identifies songs it hears, users can download a free video of Amaro.

Marketers also learned from last year's success. Back then, the most buzzed-about commercial, the Volkswagen ad featuring a kid dressed as Darth Vader, was released days before the game and became a viral hit, dominating best-of lists afterward.

So some of the most anticipated commercials are already available online via YouTube and Facebook, allowing certain cheeky critics to get a preview.

Eric Deggans can be reached at edeggans@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8521. See the Feed blog at www.tampabay.com/blogs/media.

ON TV

Super Bowl XLVI airs at 6:25 p.m. today on WFLA-Ch. 8. Madonna is the halftime act and Kelly Clarkson will sing the national anthem.

Here's a quick list of the top spots, so you can spend your time away from the game catching up with the polar bears.

Best use of ShaTner

Priceline.com's ad shows the heroic end of William Shatner's Negotiator character, plunging to his death after rescuing a busload of people he urged to "save yourself … some money." Cool punchline: Lady books a hotel as bus bearing Shatner explodes, then turns and says, "It's what he would have wanted." If only Captain Kirk's death in the Star Trek movies had been so sly.

Best shot at a repeat of 2011 success

Volkswagen's "The Bark Side" ad features a chorus of dogs shouting out the theme music which introduces Darth Vader in Star Wars. A way cool shout out to last year's cutesy commercial with the little boy dressed like Vader. And the geek in me — okay, that's most of me — loves the dog who wanders on camera dressed like the giant armored transports from The Empire Strikes Back.

Most annoying ex-athlete

"Neon" Deion Sanders takes a prize that's tough to win when Terry Bradshaw is onscreen, wearing a Pepto-Bismol pink blazer for a Century 21 ad and loads of self-satisfied attitude for a Bridgestone tire commercial. Nothing more annoying than a sports star who doesn't know when he's being overbearing. (You too, Bradshaw!)

Best use of nostalgia

Yeah, it feels weird seeing Matthew Broderick reprise his Ferris Bueller character 26 years later, just to cavort around Los Angeles in a Honda CR-V (especially since the ad airs on a Sunday when, you know, most people aren't actually working). But the result is a modern take on all the stuff we'd want to see in a Bueller sequel with two cool advantages: It only lasts 2 ½ minutes online (1 minute during the Super Bowl), and there's no Ben Stein. Ohhh, yeeeah.

Best grab at Twilight's audience

Audi's ad features a vampire driving up to a party with LED headlights, which make every bloodsucker explode. For Twilight fans, it's a fun shout-out to their favorite films. For the haters, it's a demonstration of what we'd love to do to Edward and Co., anyway. Unlike sports, this is a situation where everyone wins.

Super Bowl ads reaching beyond TV screen 02/03/12 [Last modified: Friday, February 3, 2012 4:43pm]

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