The Red Zone: Where Super Bowls–And Marketing Campaigns–Are Won

We all get a chuckle out of clever marketing during the Super Bowl, but how many of those ads actually succeed after the show’s over? Here are four ways to ensure that solid advertising seals the deal.

The Red Zone: Where Super Bowls–And Marketing Campaigns–Are Won

A headline crossed my desk this morning that read, “Super Bowl ad excitement builds”.


And my immediate reaction was, “Yeah, and…?”

Yes, it’s fun to watch the Super Bowl ads. No doubt about it. It’s exciting to see which brands will have the coolest, the funniest, and the most memorable spots on this hallowed of American marketing days. I admit that, personally, I require absolute silence in the room during the commercials so that the chatter doesn’t drown out the ads–I love the monkeys, the babies, even the beer babes.

But when all the dust settles and the trophies have been awarded, brand marketers know it’s not really about the ads. What really matters is the business outcome of those ads. So much effort goes into the commercial itself–securing the budget, negotiating the airtime, conceptualizing the creative, producing the ad, nail-biting the entire weekend in anticipation–but what happens after the 60-seconds is over is what really counts. What happens when you get them to search, click or join. Think of this ground as marketing’s red zone.

If you’re a football fan, you probably know this Sunday’s Super Bowl game may very well be won or lost by how each team performs in the red zone, i.e., that area on the field between the 20-yard line and either team’s goal line. Teams work all game long to get in that zone–and then they either score, or they don’t. How well a team performs in the red zone usually determines the outcome of a game.

In the Patriot’s playoff game against the Ravens just last month, Tom Brady’s team, which is legendary for its effectiveness in the red zone, couldn’t convert and as a result, were eliminated.

Teams get no credit for just making it into the red zone–they have to convert for a field goal or a touchdown for it to mean anything.


Likewise, how advertisers perform in the marketing red zone is the difference between a campaign that fails or succeeds. And the marketers who know this are the ones who win. They win new leads, new sales and new customers. Their advertising achieves real business results, because they don’t just get customers to look; they get customers to engage with content that will extend that engagement into meaningful action. They think beyond the ad to what happens after the ad.

Companies who win know that the ad is only the beginning. Whether it’s a commercial, a print ad, a direct mail piece, social contents, an email or paid search–when the audience pays attention it’s fleeting. It’s just a flicker of interest. To capitalize on that interest something compelling has to happen next. Usually those next things happen online.

Your brother is watching the Super Bowl and sees a funny commercial about a product that he can actually use. He whips out his phone and Googles it to learn more.

A direct mail piece lands on your husband’s desk at work for a service he’s been meaning to look into. He pops on your computer and types in the URL given.


Whatever the advertisement, whatever the context, it’s likely that the targeted audience will interact with the brand online. Will that experience meet their expectations? Will it be relevant to the ad they saw? Will it fulfill the promise you, the brand marketer, made in the ad?

These questions don’t just apply to brands that can afford to run Super Bowl ads. Every company that has a product or service to sell–anywhere, anytime–they have a red zone too. Companies who score in the red zone can achieve business-changing results.

For instance, American Greetings achieved a 30% improvement in customer acquisition by connecting their paid search ads to phenomenal landing pages that extend the ad and propel the audience forward. That’s winning in the red zone.
So, how do you win in the marketing red zone? You get 4 downs…

  1. Keep your promise after the click. Think about every ad & every marketing message you have out there in the world as a promise. How will you pay off your promise?
  2. Know what you want. You run an ad for a reason. You want more phone calls, more leads, more sales, more customers. You don’t advertise for your health, you advertise for the health of your business. Know exactly what you want from your marketing and make sure that your audience has a clear path to take the desired action.
  3. Create fantastic web experiences. Let’s face it–we all live online. When someone pays attention, sooner or later they will be interacting with you online. Make sure their experience is fantastic. If they click on a paid search ad, make sure the page they land on matches that paid search ad exactly and delivers up what you promised. If they type in a URL from a direct mail piece, make sure the page they land on matches the same look and message. Make it clear what the next step is and why they should take it (Fill out the form to get a special coupon! Call us to schedule an appointment today! Buy today and get free shipping.)
  4. Think “mobile first,” since that’s where most of your audience will look for you. What is that “ad on my smartphone or tablet” experience like? This is the place you don’t want to fumble.

Brands who think about the ad + what happens after the ad as one thing, not two separate pieces of the marketing funnel, are the brands who will win in the marketing red zone, and the end game is theirs.

So, as we all chat about the funniest, most original, and lamest commercials around the water cooler next week, let’s keep in mind that the ads matter, yes, but it’s what happens next that matters the most. Just ask Brady.

Anna Talerico is the cofounder and Executive Vice President of ion interactive.


[Image: Flickr user Steve Goodyear]