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Some Super Bowl Ads Won’t Air During the Big Game

Verizon has just 60 seconds to get its message out in a commercial it plans to run in this weekend’s Super Bowl. But if it needs more time, the company has it. A 30-minute documentary based on the same creative concept will run elsewhere.

The telecommunications giant plans to highlight the efforts of rescue workers, who often rely on its service to keep in touch. The overall campaign tells the real stories of 12 NFL players and Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, all of whom were saved from car accidents, natural disasters or house fires by first responders. But the company had so much material for its commercial that it decided to commission a documentary and hired director Peter Berg, best known for films like “Friday Night Lights” and “Patriots Day” to offer up more. The show will air 9 p.m. February 4 on CBS Sports Network.

When Berg met with Verizon Chief Marketing Officer, he was asked if he could tell the rescue stories without going over the top. Scotti told him, “I don’t want to mess this up. I don’t want to make this feel forced or unreal,” Berg recounts. “Can you do that?”

Some of the most intricate and involved advertising related to the Super Bowl will appear nowhere near the field of play, More Super Bowl advertisers are trying tactics similar to those of Verizon, putting money into other productions related to their big-game efforts.

Mars Inc., which will run an ad for M&Ms during CBS’ broadcast of Super Bowl LIII, will mount a half-hour musical for its fruit-flavored Skittles candy in New York on the afternoon of the game. PepsiCo unit Frito-Lay intends to live-stream 53 hours of a bowl of tortilla chips, starting at 1:29 p.m. ET Friday, Feb. 1, through 6:29 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 3 — ending exactly one minute before kickoff. The bowl will be regularly refilled, and various Tostitos flavors can be requested by fans commenting on the live-stream. NFL players will visit. And viewers who interact with the show may be able to win prizes.

“We started this with a very ‘omnichannel’ approach, so more people can get to experience the content,” says Scotti, in an interview. “What we find is when you start telling the story around all of these different angles, the message gets more powerful and more compelling.”

Advertisers for years had to bank on actually putting an ad in the game. With the advent of social media, however, they are more free to link promotional activities to the one that has everyone stirred up around Super Bowl weekend. To be sure, there are legal strictures about who can use the phrase “Super Bowl” and use official depictions of NFL play. But advertisers like Volvo can generate publicity around the event for things that have no official ties to it. The automaker is offering fans a “digital test drive” via just a few minutes before the real game gets underway.

This isn’t the first year advertisers have had a chance to go after Super Bowl fans in ways that don’t involve the TV set. In 2012, Coca-Cola set up a pair of animated polar bears on Facebook in their own live-stream who offered comments and quips in real time about the broadcast and commercials in Super Bowl XLVI. The bruin duo also took over Coke’s Twitter account during the event.

The main Super Bowl commercial remains important, says Verizon’s Scotti, but “I think marketers are missing an opportunity to create a longer-tail dialogue with the consumer.”Verizon’s documentary will also appear on Yahoo Sports and Fios.

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