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For Volkswagen, Lincoln, Super Bowl sit-out underscores mobile strategy shift

Volkswagen?s and other automakers? decisions to skip expensive Super Bowl XLIX television ads point to how mobile marketing is seen as a more effective way to micro-target and harvest data from a consumer who is likely to engage with a brand.

The Super Bowl pullout by VW, as well as luxury brands Lincoln and Jaguar, comes despite years of automaker big-game sponsorship as more ads are put online ahead of the winter football classic, and television and the Internet merge in myriad ways. The car brands? absence from one of the world?s most-watched TV events shows how mobile?s growth is reshaping the marketing landscape to a much wider range of advertisers.

?A brand?s optimum audience exists on the 364 days a year besides Super Bowl Sunday,? said Jim Lawson, managing partner of AdTheorent, New York. ?Marketers are looking for return on investment, and the Super Bowl isn?t the only way to get there, and it is certainly not the most cost-effective for many advertisers.

?Huge investments in Super Bowl TV commercials can be detrimental to other effective advertising opportunities,? he said. 

?In the digital age, marketers are increasingly relying on data, including metrics such as return on ad spend to drive their decisions. There are many more efficient and effective channels, such as mobile, to reach a very targeted consumer that is likely to engage with a brand,? he said. 

Big data
With vast amounts of big data available, and the ability to micro target and reach target audiences in a personalized way, auto brands may be opting for a more data-driven approach. 

?If an advertiser has the right data about its audience, and uses it intelligently, every day can be Super Bowl Sunday,? Mr. Lawson said.

Toyota Super Bowl ad.

A statement released to Mobile Marketer by Volkswagen of America suggested the Super Bowl, which took in $92 million in ad spending from six automakers in 2013, is losing its magnetism for the German automaker, at least this season.

"Volkswagen is a great fan of the Super Bowl, and it has been a strong platform for the brand and our campaigns,? said the statement from Volkswagen of America, Herndon, VA. ?However, for 2015 we have opted to not participate due to other priorities and initiatives across all platforms. 

?We hope to rejoin the Super Bowl when we feel it is appropriate for our brand," it said.
Mobile?s strengths are not the only reason some brands are taking a Super Bowl rain check this year, despite the opportunity to show off products before an expected audience of more than 110 million viewers during the Feb. 1 broadcast. Some automakers simply have no new car models to hype in a Super Bowl ad priced at a record $4.5 million per 30-second spot. 

?The automakers on the record sitting it out this year are those that don?t have a big product splash to make,? said Dave Zoia, editorial director of Ward?s Auto. 

?Volkswagen, for instance, has seen its sales sag in the last year as its product cycle hits a slow spot.?

Nevertheless, automakers, aiming to woo millennial buyers who resist traditional advertising, have stepped up shifting marketing dollars into digital channels. Typically, they position ads next to streaming video on mobile devices and social media sites.

In November, Chrysler Group, officially FCA US, teamed up with Universal Music Group's Interscope Records during the ABC-broadcast American Music Awards to air videos that had artists such as Fergie and Phillip Phillips performing new songs while promoting Chrysler?s and parent Fiat?s vehicles.

In June, Honda unveiled the Honda Stage, a YouTube project which takes videos from about 200 live performances at festivals, concert halls and other venues from around the country. 

?The marketing landscape has shifted, and continues to do so,? AdTheorent?s Mr. Lawson said.  ?More and more money is being shifted from television in general to mobile, and this will continue.?  

Marketers are using the intelligence that Big Data provides to make more informed purchasing decisions.  

?The notion of TV as superior to other screens is anachronistic ? mobile audiences, and the data available about those users, have changed the landscape,? Mr. Lawson said.

Harvesting user data from digital channels.

?Mobile has ushered in a new era and new opportunities to reach the right consumer in an intelligent way, delivering ROI,? he said.  ?The Super Bowl is no longer the end all, be all, because there are so many other ways to reach clearly defined audiences without spending $4.5 million dollars for a 30-second blip on the radar.?

Car brands are realizing that mobile can be much more efficient in targeting the right audience and generating brand lift at scale. 

?The shift is happening from TV to mobile rather than other events,? said Eric Mugnier, senior vice president of M&C Saatchi Mobile, New York. ?The explosion of rich media format on mobile, such as mobile video, is attracting a larger panel of brands, including cars manufacturers. 

?These types of ads can now convey the emotion of a TV ad within a highly measurable and targeted channel,? he said. ?With the exponential and recent growth of the channel, mobile is reshaping the marketing landscape to a much wider range of advertisers.?

Some car brands have driven the Super Bowl ad blitz deeper into mobile.

For instance, Toyota has partnered with Hulu, the ad-supported online video service, to launch Toyota AdZone, which brings a collection of Super Bowl advertising past and present to one place and lets fans vote in real-time for their favorite game-day commercial.
This year, fans can head to mobile devices, laptops and PCs to watch leaked ads, teasers and commercials from Super Bowl XLIX before game day.

Toyota's own Super Bowl campaign this year focuses on the 2015 Camry, and will include exclusive content that will be released online leading up to the game, and will culminate in two 60-second television commercials that will air on the broadcast.

Personal outreach
It is another example of how mobile has redefined marketing by making the outreach more personal.

Changing mind sets via mobile.

?Measurable and more effective channels, like digital and mobile advertising are changing mind sets by providing a level of interaction with the targeted audience that goes beyond brand awareness and mass reach,? said M&C Saatchi Mobile?s Mr. Mugnier. 

?Car brands are realizing that mobile can be much more efficient in targeting the right audience and generating brand lift at scale. 

?In the US, the paramount TV audience moment has always been the Super Bowl,? he said. ?But with the efficiency of a mobile channel, the inflated costs of the Super Bowl might no longer be as attractive.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.