For brands, investing in a Super Bowl spot raises the stakes like nothing else.  According to Unruly’s new report about Super Bowl ads, the cost of a single 30-second ad during the big game is now $4 million.  Brands can’t afford to throw that money away expecting people to remember it just because it happened to play during the Super Bowl.  They need something memorable, and something likely to be shared with friends before and after the ad plays.  Unruly has found that for every branded video shared, an average of 25 peers could see that content, and many brands have yet to take advantage of “social video.”

The Unruly Super Bowl 2013 Social Video Playbook

Here is some choice advice brands need to follow from the Playbook to optimize Super Bowl ad campaigns for the social web:

1. Time to think big.

Ad sharing increased 129% in 2012 over 2011.  The top 20 ads from the Super Bowl accounted for 92% of total shares, which is staggering, and shows that there is a lot of room for other brands to swoop in and take their piece of the pie.  Unruly says brands need to take the time to engage viewers with a story and hit emotional triggers that make people want to share the ad.  Easier said than done?  Well, get going early and test your ads out before they go to market to see if they are the kind of ads that get shared.  Companies like Unruly actually test market and experiment with an ad’s “shareability” before it hits the airwaves.

2. Emotional triggers brands need to aim for when making shareable content.

“Hilarity” and “exhilarating” were the top emotional triggers, which is not a surprise.  Most of the time we love an ad, it’s because it was so funny, or it was particularly amazing.  Ads using these triggers are twice as likely to be shared.

3. Thinking outside the box and how it can pay off.

Unruly cites as an example Chevrolet, which had been going for the funny in the past, decided to go a different route by tapping OK Go to make this ad, which was the most shared ad of Super Bowl 2012:

Unruly mentions that music videos are constantly making appearances on their Viral Video Chart, and Chevy not only got a music video here, but they also got one with unique, amazing content.  They took a big leap of faith.  But even on paper, “OK Go drives a car that goes through a musical obstacle course” had to be appealing.

4. Tease your content before the big game.

75% of the top 10 ads chose to come out with a teaser for their Super Bowl ad, ramping up anticipation and getting people to speculate about what the ad would be when it finally hit.  All of the top 4 ads took this strategy, and Unruly recommends releasing such a teaser in the second half of January and the regular ad a week before the Super Bowl to get as many eyeballs as possible.

5. Ads online can benefit by being longer.

A 30-second Super Bowl ad can, in effect, be a “teaser” for something longer and even more enjoyable online.  Ads increased to an average of 83 seconds long in 2012, a 31-second increase.  Ads that are more than just 30 seconds can tell a bigger story, show content that wasn’t in the (hopefully already very good) 30-second ad, and are more likely to be shared.  And ads like these have tremendous staying power, as 55% of the sharing occurred after March 1, 2012, long after the Super Bowl.

In general, brands should be finding ways to stretch out their investment, especially if they’re paying $4 million to get seen for 30 seconds on the Super Bowl.  Using online video is a free service that can reach millions, and it’s a good way to make that $4 million go to work.  So brands should aggressively create an “event” around their ad.  Since a lot of people watch the Super Bowl strictly for the ads, those commercials have become an event all their own.  So it’s appropriate to create buzz around brands and for them to take some of that huge Super Bowl spotlight for themselves.  It proved to be a major win for Chevrolet, VW, and Honda by taking this approach.

We’d like to thank Unruly for their findings.  They are a goldmine of useful data.  Dont forget to also check out their infographic which highlights the Top 10 Facts About Super Bowl Ads Online for 2013.