Films To Score Big At Super Bowl. The Question Is… Which Ones?

There’s been a Post-It note on my computer for about nine months now, with a common advertising refrain written there: More eyeballs equals a better promotional platform. I’m not sure what made me put it up — whether it was the direct quote of someone I saw on CNBC or something I had read out of a trade publication– but it seems appropriate as filmgoers queue up for the biggest advertising events of the year in the form of the Super Bowl, now less than a month away.

Despite the clutter the event brings, it is a highly visible platform to promote upcoming pictures, especially those the studios identify as tentpole releases– Even with the balance line cost, what major distributor wouldn’t want to invest $2.2 million to reach nearly half of the American population this yearr Last year’s event had an estimated 131.7 million people watch at least part of the game, the fifth-highest total for a television program. Taking advantage of the depressed cost of $1.8 million 30-second spot, nine films advertised last year, with a half-dozen others buying time on regional FOX affiliates, during the pre-game show or even on “Malcolm in the Middle,” which was programmed directly after.

But, remember, a placement in this venue does not guarantee major box office-see last year’s alumni of films that bought ad time, which included the Bruce Willis dud “Hart’s War” and Josh Hartnett’s “40 Days and 40 Nights.” The lesson learned is that studios should only be investing money here with a franchise, a major box office draw or an extremely novel idea, or better yet, with two out of the three. Additionally, studios should be not surprised when their films appear in the lower rung of consumer surveys looking at the event’s best ads– such has been the case, except in extremely rare instances, in recent memory– and that there should be an overall advertising/awareness strategy in place to make sure the opportunity to connect with viewers is lost over time.

“You’ve got to deliver, nail it, boom, in 30 or 60 seconds,” Michael Sheehan, president at ad agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos told The New York Times recently. “It’s not the best time to be edgy or make people wonder what they saw. It’s a time for classic story-telling, entertaining viewers with humor and emotion. That’s the recipe for being successful.” While Sheehan was talking on commercial placements overall, this also spells true for films, although edginess is appreciated for films, given the target audience of those watching.

As of mid-December, 85 percent of the game’s 61 slots were filled for the January 26th game. Looking at those films and studios that have bought ad time, here’s a list of those films confirmed and those still in the mix to appear at Super Bowl XXXVII.
Those Confirmed to Be In
The Hulk (Universal Pictures): Variety has confirmed that the Marvel Comics character will be fully unveiled during the Super Bowl. Previously, the studio had released a teaser in May that only showed star Eric Bana transforming into The Hulk, but refrains from showing his alter ego. The picture seems to be following a strategy similar to “Spider-Man,” although the image of that superhero was unveiled long before its own Super Bowl ad. The first official print image comes in the form of an oversized banner that features the Hulk reaching toward viewers that debuted this month, although it looks more like artwork than an actual shot of the character. The banner was placed in several highly trafficked multiplexes on Dec. 20.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (20th Century Fox): Studio sources have confirmed to that an advertising placement for the Russell Crowe flick has been purchased for the June film, very similar to the teaser that was unveiled this month. Good choice for the distributor, as the first television trailer for “Gladiator” did well here in 2000, intercutting how the film was similar to football. Hopefully, they’ll take a similar approach in luring viewers here as well-the trailer for “M&C” was well-done, but needs more oomph.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Warner Bros.): Studio sources have confirmed to that a advertising placement for the next installment of the “Terminator” franchise will be unveiled here, and different from that currently in theaters-no further comment from the studio on what will be seen, but most likely more action shots.


Those Eyeing Spots, by Studio
20th Century Fox: X2, the sequel to the 2000 film “X-Men,” is another possibility for the studio, with new images not seen before. Also, Daredevil, which opens two weeks later, looks to have a good chance of appearing at the game.

Columbia Pictures: A studio that purchased a number of slots last year is said to be taking the same strategy this year. Those in contention for slots include Daddy Day Care, Identity, Bad Boys II, Basic, Tears of the Sun, Anger Management and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. As one can tell from this laundry list which is almost everything on their early slate, nothing is certain here, but I’d give the edge to the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson pairing, the ensemble thriller “Identity,” the coming Will Smith/Martin Lawrence juggernaut and the jigglethon that is “Charlie’s Angels.”

MGM: The studio has bought a slot each of the past two years, with 2001’s “Hannibal” and last year’s “Hart’s War.” This year’s selection looks to be a better fit than in previous years, based on reaction to the current trailer, with the studio pulling out all the stops for Bulletproof Monk. I’d put this as a confirmed title, but don’t have full corroboration from studio sources as of yet.

Miramax Films: Harvey Weinstein’s studio is said to be consider purchasing a spot for next fall’s Kill Bill. Given the film’s lukewarm (to put it nicely) reception in theaters, attached exclusively to “Gangs of New York,” this may not be the smartest of moves. I’d recommend they spend their cash elsewhere before they put more money into this film’s advertising budget.

New Line Cinema: A Man Apart is the studio’s choice. We’ll see if they actually do go for it here, though, seeing how parent company AOL Time Warner is trying everything within their power to conserve costs at all levels. They have to spend the profits from the “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” franchises somewhere, though.

Universal Pictures: Already having confirmed it has purchased one slot for “The Hulk,” the possibility also exists for slots for 2 Fast 2 Furious (the oddly-named “Fast & the Furious sequel”) and Bruce Almighty. 2F2F would be a particularly good selection, as the original film did quite well in AdMeter ratings in 2001 and drastically raised the profile for that film. Without Vin Diesel and a title that I’m still snickering at, they need all the help they can get.

Walt Disney Films: Taking advantage of the ABC synergy, the movie arm looks to “buy” several slots from its television arm. Given the studio’s focus on family film, I’m not sure which films the studio will be pursuing, but the best chance for a slot is Pixar’s latest entry, Finding Nemo.

Warner Brothers: Same said above for New Line also holds true here, as this is also an AOL TW company. Almost a certain lock is a placement for The Matrix Reloaded, with the studio also eyeing a possible slot for Dreamcatcher. I’d bet on the former, and hold my breath on the latter.

What is telling here is that the bulk of these films already have premiered teasers or trailers already in theaters. They might go with new visuals, like “Spider-Man” did last year, or they could condense trailers to fit into the timeslot purchased.

Again, there is still risk– studios must spend as much on the timeslot as they do in the piece of advertising itself. As Bill Katz, president and chief executive of agency BBDO, recently told the Chicago Tribune, “the Super Bowl has emerged as a highly scrutinized, highly critical advertising event. It’s a huge double-edged sword, the upside is so big, but the downside is risky. You have 6,000 or 7,000 journalists writing about it. The results can be devastating if the advertising is bad.”

Be warned: Advertisements aren’t due to ABC until the 21st of January, so there is still time for them to switch (they’ve done this the previous three years to draw attention to a project in the press and then have given the slot to another project). If we get any indication that the above confirmed are switched, we at will correct that info above. Check back here at the second full week of January for further confirmation on films that will be appearing at this year’s Super Bowl.