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For Super Bowl XLVI commercials, when the game ends, the story still goes on

By Virginia Rohan, The Record (Hackensack N.J.) –

Have you gone to “The Bark Side” yet?

The first in Volkswagen’s ‘The Bark Side’ series of ads was released Jan. 18, as a teaser for a Super Bowl commercial. The 64-second Volkswagen commercial, which went viral soon after the carmaker uploaded it to YouTube on Jan. 18, features a chorus of 11 dogs that bark out the “Imperial March” from “Star Wars.” The accompanying note says, “Keep an eye out for our 2012 Game Day commercial — it will all make sense.”

The doggies are just a “teaser” for VW’s canine-centric Super Bowl XLVI commercial for the 2012 Beetle, an intro to an evolving story.

“You build up to the story, you get the top of the arc during the Super Bowl, but you’re not at the end. You haven’t finished the book,” says Jumana Abu-Ghazaleh, executive vice president and director of strategy for Leo Burnett New York, an advertising agency. “It’s not about the surprise element anymore. They’re creating an entire universe.”

Noting that some companies even release their entire commercials in advance, she says, “You used to watch the Super Bowl because you didn’t know what you were going to see, and now you watch because you do.”

Welcome to the new world of Super Bowl commercials. Rather than one-shot gotchas, NBC says the trend this year is long-format ads. At an average price of $3.5 million per 30 seconds, they aim to be interactive and to create engaging narratives with preludes and prologues.

“Social media, the ability to tweet and Facebook, lets a commercial stay on so long after the Super Bowl, so advertisers are more willing to spend a phenomenal amount of bucks, because they live so much longer,” says Barbara Lippert, former Adweek ad critic and now curator of popular culture at ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. “People are reading about them and looking at them up to a month later.”

It’s all about engaging the consumer, the experts say. For example, Chevrolet released a Super Bowl app called “Chevy Game Time.” With it, users look for clues while watching the game and commercials on Feb. 5 for an opportunity to win one of 20 cars and other prizes. That opportunity will “get people involved,” says Lippert, whose agency has Chevy as a client.

Chevrolet also has a “user-generated” ad, created by a Long Island man who won $25,000 in a Chevy contest. In his “Happy Grad” spot, a young man thinks he’s getting a car as a high-school graduation present, but his parents actually bought him a mini-fridge.

Yet another sign of the interactivity: A third of this year’s Super Bowl commercials will use Shazam, the popular sound-recognition app. If you’re watching an ad, Shazam will provide you with more information on the product.

As usual, you’ll see Super Bowl commercials for beer, cars, movies and electronics.

“Samsung is one that is being buzzed about already, just because it’s going head to head with Apple,” says Abu-Ghazaleh, adding that you’ll also see some brands you wouldn’t expect to see advertising in the Super Bowl, such as Dannon yogurt, Teleflora, the H&M retail chain and Century 21 Real Estate. “You’re no longer talking to people who are just watching the game. It’s not just guys 18 to 34, where you have to sell them cars and movies and sex. Now, it’s a time to talk about everything, because everybody watches them. The advertising is as important as the game.”

Not that sex won’t be used to sell products during the Super Bowl.

“Go Daddy is doing its usual porny, corny, stupid kind of” thing, says Lippert. The Web company has already released part of an ad called “Body Paint,” in which Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels are painting the presumably naked body of model Natalia Velez. The spot will drive viewers to the company’s website, where they’ll presumably see more flesh.

Animals also will be well represented during this year’s commercials, Abu-Ghazaleh says. “Dogs and celebrities will continue. In fact, in combining those trends, apparently Skechers is replacing Kim Kardashian with a dog.”

The company released a sneak peek of its Super Bowl commercial, in which a little French bulldog named Mr. Quiggly is a late entry to a greyhound race and wears running shoes as he walks the track. (A greyhound protection organization is reportedly protesting the ad because it was filmed at a greyhound track that the group alleges has been involved in animal cruelty and neglect. So much for avoiding Kardashian-like controversy.)

VW’s “The Bark Side” teaser on YouTube — which had more than 9 million views as of Thursday — has a link that will help you create “an Intergalactic” invitation to your Super Bowl party.

According to Brian Thomas, general manager of brand marketing for Volkswagen, the actual Super Bowl commercial will “have a hero who is a dog … (who) goes on a little journey involving the Volkswagen brand.” The 60-second spot, which VW plans to release on Wednesday, has a “little twist” at the end, as well as a “Star Wars” theme. The theme worked well for the company last year, when its spot about a pint-sized Darth Vader was the most-watched ad on YouTube, with more than 49 million views.

“But do you know the model of VW car that was in that spot?” says Abu-Ghazaleh. “People will watch it more and the more they watch it, the more they’ll get out of it. But nobody watched that spot (on Super Bowl Sunday) and knew there was a Passat in there.”

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