Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I Learned From the 500 Ads

It has become an entertaining pop culture sideline to the superbowl for advertisers to roll out new ads for the game and for casual observers to comment on them as if they were pop art creations for esoteric enjoyment. So as I was watching the replay of the Indy 500 I thought, what if I took a look at the quantity, quality and content of the advertising that was placed within the Indy 500 broadcast. Wham – another blog post wrote itself.

From start of the pre race program until the final sign off a total of 148 ads ran during the broadcast. Assuming each was a 30 second spot (some were 60 and one 120) they represented nearly 74 minutes of airtime. 25 spots, appeared during the pre-race portion of the broadcast, 114 before the checkered fell and a mere 9 afterwards. Again assuming 30 second spots, those ads represented 57 minutes of a race that was 3 hours and 5 minutes long meaning that 31% of the racing action was obscured by paying the bills. Another 50% was wasted on what can generally be described as tangential asinine coverage by ABC leaving us with about 19% or 35 minutes of random tidbits of race coverage ABC deemed we were worthy of. I was at the race with the race scanner tuned to IMS with some occasional scans to eavesdrop on car signals. Even though being there in person was a $90 ticket, after getting home and watching the DVR I feel like I got more value from being there than watching the ABC coverage for free.

Getting back to the ads, 55 ads were placed in local blocks and 93 in national blocks. Local blocks generally are not targeted buys, about half the placements are sold by the local TV stations and the rest are national buys of local inventory. Point is that outside of the Indianapolis market these ads were not deliberately placed with the 500 broadcast. So I won’t spend any more time talking about them.

Of the 93 ads that were placed within the national blocks it is likely that the majority were targeted buys, meaning that the advertisers wanted their ads to explicitly run during the 500. A complete list of the 45 different spots is attached below and they represent 38 different advertisers.

One of the goals for any sponsorship package is convincing the sponsoring company to use your driver, team or series within their ads in order to passively advertise your series to a larger base. Of the 93 ads that ran, 42% included the IICS in the body of the creative. 38% included a series driver. 33% of the ads were placed by series sponsors and 26% were associated with a particular team in the series. 18.3% included some sort of alternative media activation via contest or promotion. 44% of the ads represented companies with no current ties to the series. Four ads included nascar in some fashion.

This was the year of Mario given his prominence within the IZOD Race to the Party Finale, which in the end played the Danica card at perhaps the most inopportune moment given her month up to that point. Mario was also associated with a Honda activation promotion that was giving away a grand prize of a spin around Sonoma with the aging hero. The commercial to support the contest was cute, with the most amusing part being where Mario deadpans “I’m hungry” to the unfortunate contest winner who finds himself chauffeuring Mario around.

JP’s favorite ad was for the BLUR racing game. Spoofing Mario cart one can only hope that race fans from other forms of the sport look through the chain link fence at IndyCar with the same envy that the broccoli haired avatar has upon seeing the racing inside the Blur game.

An interesting ad was for Spriva. You may recall being blitzed by Danica talking about the medical condition COPD. TVads, radio ads and even activation at the track itself it was all over the place. Then wham - an ad for a drug to treat the condition shows up. It was all part of a single campaign, first build awareness of a condition then provide a cure. Ad campaigns for pharmaceuticals are often planned this way. What I found interesting was the target market was a viewing audience that had beend force fed cigarette advertsing for 40 years. The irony, the first 500 w/o Phillip Morris' involvement features a product to clean up the mess that was left behind.

Honda rolled out two new ads during the broadcast, the first supported the Mario two seater promotion and the other talked about their involvement and success in the IICS. It showed a time lapse of an IICS engine being broken down into its individual components – cool stuff for a racing nerd. It was interesting that the commercial referred to the lack of engine failures, not victories, as the measure of success. If you spend the weekend racing, but there was no one else to beat, have you accomplished anything? Apparently Honda had to search a little here.

But the really disturbing finding my analysis of ads revealed was found when looking at the automotive ads. Ads for 9 different automotive brands appeared in the untargeted local blocks. Meanwhile in the targeted national spots, ads for only 4 automotive brands appeared. Honda of course is a given. Chevrolet probably showed up to associate with the pace car. The others were Mitsubishi and Porshe. These last two are quite intriguing given the ongoing discussions about the next generation car. I suspect these placements were tests. Tests that this week will be researched for recall, association and fit for the league and nameplates themselves.

I had a revelation last week, a co worker asked me why no European manufacturers were involved with nascar. After restraining myself from the snarky demographic based comments I would be normally be inclined to make, I boiled it down for her this way. “Mercedes nor VW make Pickup trucks, so there is no real reason for them to involve themselves with a series that is best positioned to sell trucks”. She then asked, “Then where do car companies who want to sell cars go to race”. At that point what the answer NEEDS to be was staring me straight in the face, but I could not utter it because it was not true.

The IICS needs to be the motor racing platform that is the primary forum for manufacturers who want to sell cars. Granted, name plates with average list prices over $50k are probably best suited for a sports car series and name plates like Kia and Hyundai will never sell a car because of an involvement in a racing program. But name plates that position themselves and being sporty and racey like Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi and VW should be priority #1 for the league. If the next IICS formula cannot find room enough for three of these additional brands then it has failed to claim that portion of the market which should be its own home turf. It will have failed to be a relevant marketing instrument for an industry that is becoming entrenched around a value proposition of responsible fuel efficiency, yet fun and racey. The only way for the IICS to represent this market is to make spec decisions about the future that embrace these principals as its own. If the IICS doesn’t succeed here, it will fail overall.

Ads from the race broadcast:

Ad

Reps

Go Daddy - Contest

6

Brazillian Coffee

5

Firestone

4

Honda Two Seater

4

Nature Valley

4

SugarCane Ethanol

4

Gieco

3

Go Daddy

3

Honda Heart

3

Porsche

3

Window World

3

5 Hour Energy

2

Allstate

2

Blur

2

Chevrolet

2

Click it or Ticket

2

Comfort Inn

2

Honda

2

IndyCar Nation

2

Izod Race Finale

2

Mitsubishi

2

Mothers

2

Papa John's

2

Peak

2

Quicken Loans

2

Samsung 3D TV

2

Wheaties

2

Zline Designs (IndyCar)

2

5 Hour Energy (nascar)

1

Aqua Hydrate

1

Aqua Velva After Shave

1

Boost Mobile

1

Castrol Edge

1

E- Trade

1

Firestone IndyLights

1

Hellman's

1

Izod

1

John Deere

1

Just for men

1

Men's Warehouse

1

Spiriva

1

USPS

1

Verizon Motorola Droid

1

Verizon Racing

1

Zline Designs (nascar)

1

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