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Chicago — Super Bowl 50 is three weeks away, but for many advertisers, the digital pregame is about to begin with a barrage of online teaser videos culminating in the full commercial reveal before the big game.

With ads running at a reported $5 million per 30-second spot — the most expensive airtime in TV history — marketers are increasingly relying on digital platforms and promotions to get their money’s worth. Building anticipation and buzz online has become as important to advertisers as the game itself, annually the most watched event in television and the highest-profile stage for their commercials.

Coming up with a spot that has people talking the day after at the water cooler and on social media is the goal.

“It used to be you just had to worry about creating a great piece of advertising,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management who heads up an annual Super Bowl Advertising Review. “Now you have to create great advertising, but you also need to put together an entire integrated marketing campaign around the advertising.”

The Super Bowl will be played on Feb. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and televised on CBS, which for the first time will simulcast the commercials during a free live stream of the game. That will help advertisers capture an increasingly fragmented video audience, even for the ultimate live TV event.

Last year, Super Bowl XLIX on NBC drew a record 114.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen, as the New England Patriots sealed a 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks with a last-minute end zone interception. NBC’s free live stream of the game averaged 800,000 online viewers, according to Adobe Analytics.

Online viewership is likely to go up as a growing number of pay-TV viewers cut the cable cord for Internet video streaming services. Last year, nearly 4.9 million U.S. households dropped pay TV services, according to research firm eMarketer, which projected one in five households will not subscribe to cable or satellite TV by 2018.

Tim Hanlon, Chicago-based managing director in the media and entertainment practice of FTI Consulting, called the commercial simulcast a smart move by CBS, which has been staking out online turf with its own streaming service.

“CBS protects itself from any challenge to the idea that there are certain audiences watching that are not counted or not seeing the advertising,” Hanlon said.

Super Bowl ad pricing has increased by 76 percent over the last decade, making it the most expensive commercial time on TV by far, according to Kantar Media. The volume of commercials clocks in at 47 minutes of ad time in each of the last six Super Bowls, rivaling the actual game. Other trends include long-form commercials, with nearly 40 percent of the ads running 60 seconds or longer in recent games. The top five Super Bowl advertisers since 2005 are Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Chrysler and General Motors.

Last year, Skittles teased its offbeat arm-wrestling spot, “It Will Be Settled,” but did not release the 30-second commercial in advance.

Skittles is joining the crowd this year by teasing and then releasing the full spot before it runs in the Super Bowl, according to sources.

Big 3 Super Bowl plans

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co. have not announced their entire plans for this year’s Super Bowl. Ford Motor Co. told The Detroit News that neither its namesake or Lincoln brands would be advertising during the big game.

U.S. Vice President of Buick-GMC Duncan Aldred last week in Detroit said Buick would advertise during the Super Bowl for the first time in the brand’s history. Tim Mahoney, global Chevrolet CMO, declined to comment to The News regarding any other plans to advertise during the Super Bowl.

Fiat Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois also declined to comment on the automaker’s advertising plans last week in Detroit. Since Chrysler’s critically acclaimed 2011 “Born of Fire” Super Bowl spot for the Chrysler 200 featuring Eminem, the company has kept its plans secret until they debut during the game. In recent years, the company has said if it was advertising during the Super Bowl without releasing the commercials.

Fiat Chrysler was the only Detroit automaker to advertise during last year’s Super Bowl. It aired three ads. Although GM didn’t advertise during the 2015 game, its Chevy brand did surprise viewers with an ad titled “Blackout” that ran immediately before the big game.

The ad showed what looked like a live game feed that went to static and then a blank screen. But it wasn’t real. The ad quickly then explained that had the game gone out, viewers could have used their Chevrolet Colorado pickup 4G LTE Wi-Fi access to stream the game.

Michael Wayland

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