Super Bowl LII: Confessions From the Sidelines

While I may not be out on the field and will never win the ring, I’ve had a front row seat to the Super Bowl for seven years running. No, I’m not a referee or a cheerleader. As Extreme Reach’s VP of video network and support, I’m part of the team that makes sure those very expensive spots (roughly $5 million for 30 seconds) are delivered on time and are ready for air without a hitch. That front row seat has my name on it for the six days leading up to Game Day. It provides premium viewing of the ads, not the field.

For those of us behind the scenes, The Big Game is way more than a one day event. In fact, the inquiries from advertisers about specs and other technical details start rolling in around September. From there, it’s a slow build of activity and by the deadline (Jan. 25 this year), only 26% of the total spots had been delivered. Still, the week before the game is when the real on-the-ground action begins.

With the financial stakes being what they are, it makes perfect sense to be on-site at the network that carries the game the week prior to the Super Bowl, something that wasn’t the case just a few years back. For Super Bowl LII, I arrived at the network on Monday and essentially lived at the Media Operations Center through Friday. On Saturday I had to deal with a few last-minute issues in the afternoon and then ensure that an in-game spot was delivered before midnight (it was actually delivered at 11:59:36 p.m. ET). On Sunday afternoon I was back at NBC to ensure that another in-game spot that was being delivered during the game made it safely to the network and then to TV screens everywhere.

By the end of the game, my company had successfully delivered 43 out of the 60 in-game paid commercials, covering 29½ minutes of airtime. At roughly $5 million per 30 seconds, that’s a total value of just under $300 million.

The top 5 advertiser categories in Super Bowl LII were beverages, auto, entertainment, food and financial services. Out of the 43 in-game spots we delivered, 63% had 5.1 surround audio and all but two spots had closed captioning (not mandatory this year). And in the era of pre-released and “leaked” spots, 26% of the in-game spots delivered by Extreme Reach had late-notice creative changes.

About those pre-releases... As someone who has been in the game for a while, I’m not a fan. Personally, I like the element of surprise and even though I’m heavily involved in getting the spots to the network and making sure that there aren’t any issues, I still enjoy seeing the spots that were not flagged in real-time during the game as part of the shared cultural experience that is the Super Bowl.

Every year I’m curious whether a commercial will displace my favorite of all time: a spot from Audi that aired in 2013. The story revolves around another classic American cultural touchstone, the prom, and the coming-of-age gesture of driving dad’s car to get there. In the spot, our teenage protagonist is so emboldened by this symbolic acknowledgment of his manhood that he dares to kiss the prom queen—much to the chagrin of the prom king. The scene cuts, and when we see our hero again, he’s wearing a black eye, but more importantly, a big smile, too. This resonates with me and may resemble some dreams from my high school days.

If you’re still undecided about your favorite from this year’s game, or can’t recall the details of a spot that everyone’s been talking about this week, check out the full gallery in the Showcase put together every year by my colleagues at Source Creative. Now I’ve got to get back to the network to ensure that the ads we’re sending for the Olympics all get gold medals for being delivered on-time. A man can dream...