Is 2017 the Year Super Bowl Ads Go Beyond the Bezels of Your TV?

01/13/2017 02:16 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2018

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Kai Henniges, Co-Founder & CEO, Video Intelligence

Last year, Jeep’s Super Bowl commercial ‘Portraits’ kick-started a quiet revolution. A stunning film in its own right, it was also the first Super Bowl ad to be published in a portrait format. Optimised for tablet, it took advantage of the fact that that device is most commonly used in conjunction with television viewing.

It’s worth re-watching a year on, as we assess what impact it’s had.

The spot won the Super Clio prize, which rewards the best Super Bowl ads, and was praised for its restraint, sophistication and poetry. But the importance of the tablet-first format went under the radar.

Other mobile-first campaigns were better regarded. Gatorade’s sponsored Snapchat filter reportedly reached 160m impressions, far outstripping the number of people who watched the game itself. This huge level of mobile engagement is what marketers should be taking notice of.

Last year, according to Salesforce, 80% of viewers used two or more screens whilst watching the Super Bowl. When it comes to 19-24s this number increases, and in fact shows that more young people will watch the Super Bowl with or on mobile than on TV.

Meanwhile, in the land of mobile advertising, the big success story over the past year has been video. Mobile video has proved itself to be an entertaining, engaging and effective means of advertising. Marketers have cottoned on and are investing in mobile video campaigns like never before.

It’s been quietly realised that on mobile, horizontal video is just not right. Users interact with tablets and mobiles devices in portrait mode most of the time. To be served a horizontal ad during this experience seems counter-intuitive; landscape format video is rendered tiny when the device is held vertically. Advertisers are paying for the whole screen space, but in fact are only getting a quarter of it. It’s a waste of money, and a bad experience for both the advertiser and the customer.

But the balance is about to shift from TV-inspired horizontal video to mobile first vertical video.

While we won’t see the demise of the big budget TV spots this year, the most effective campaigns will be integrated with mobile. Headline spots will run on TV, augmented with richer mobile iterations and additional content. And those that use moving image will be most successful when that video is portrait.

I expect the first examples of this format to come from some of the more innovative brands. Perhaps Mountain Dew, Skittles or Snickers will give us a crazy vertical experience in line with their existing creative reputations. Super Bowl’s long-running advertisers, GoDaddy have already hinted at a left-field campaign for this year. We’re in for a year of advertising that goes way beyond the bezels of your TV screen

Whoever goes all-in on vertical will own Super Bowl 2017. Brands will follow suit, noting that Jeep’s 2016 sales were up 17% year on year, and fully invest in mobile campaigns featuring vertical videos. Budgets will be freed up and filmmakers will revel in the new creative potential.

With Super Bowl around the corner, it feels like the vertical revolution is just beginning. I, for one, can’t wait for it to kick off.

About the Author

Kai Henniges is co-founder and CEO of video intelligence, a predictive mobile marketing platform.