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Social media stirs up Super Bowl advertising pregame buzz

by Robert Macpherson

AFP-JIJI

Nearly 180 million Americans will settle in front of TV sets with beer and chicken wings this weekend and, over four hours, watch commercials interrupted by a football game.

Well, all right, the gridiron showdown Sunday in New Orleans between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers is still the main attraction of the Super Bowl that will bring another U.S. football season to a close.

But for the more than 30 brands — from luxury cars to laundry detergent — forking out as much as $3.8 million for 30 seconds of airtime on the CBS network, it’s an advertising showcase like no other.

Some have already released their ads in full on YouTube to get people talking. Others have posted teasers online. Still more are opting for an aura of suspense by holding back their ads until the opening kickoff.

And all are banking on social media to keep the buzz alive long after the game ends.

“One of the goals has always been not just the (viewing) audience, but the word of mouth afterwards,” said Matt Miller of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. “Social media just puts that on steroids.”

Causing an early stir have been prereleased spots from Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, two of the record nine automakers using the Super Bowl to show off their latest wares.

Wooing younger consumers, Mercedes-Benz recruited Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kate Upton to suggestively blow soap bubbles at a squad of awestruck young men washing one of its all-new CLA sedans.

Online cries of sexism only helped generate more than 5.5 million views on YouTube for the ad, which concludes with an invitation to see more on Mercedes-Benz’s Facebook page.

Volkswagen took some flak this week for its ad — a collaboration with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff — featuring a Beetle-driving white office worker cheering up his gloomy colleagues with a hip Jamaican accent.

While some critics and bloggers cried racism, the ad swiftly clocked 1.6 million YouTube views.

With Apple staying away from this year’s game, smartphone rivals BlackBerry and Samsung have both snapped up airtime — with the former gambling big to claw back market share with its new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Coca-Cola, retiring its iconic animated polar bears, is asking consumers to vote during the Super Bowl to decide the ending of its desert-theme-ad. The winner will air right after the game.

Coke is up against archrival Pepsi, which has poured millions of dollars not only into two 30-second spots, but also the half-time show that stars its pop-diva spokeswoman Beyoncé.

That showbiz spectacular typically pulls in more viewers than the game itself, which last year drew 111.3 million viewers. The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association expects viewership this year to surpass 179 million.

Newcomers include Wonderful Pistachios, which has called in South Korean rapper and YouTube sensation Psy for its spot, and Gildan Activewear, a virtually unknown Canadian T-shirt giant angling to raise its retail profile.