on by in Advertising

Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl ad signaled a new era in personal computers, a revolt against a world portrayed as an Orwellian state dominated by IBM. It also ushered in a new era of Super Bowl advertising where viewers came to expect the ads to be almost as entertaining as the game itself.

The ad, directed by filmmaker Ridley Scott, who had just finished “Blade Runner,” cost nearly $1 million to make, a huge sum for the fledgling computer company. The concept was brainchild of legendary ad man and TBWA/MediaArts chairman Lee Clow, who remembers Apple co-founder Steve Jobs didn’t get involved in the story or the casting. Rather, he just said, “go make it great.”

But “1984” almost didn’t make it on TV at all. In an interview with Advertising Age, Mr. Clow explains why and also why you may never see an ad like it again.

In addition, we’ve interviewed Bryan Buckley, one of the most prolific and clever Super Bowl commercial directors of all time with 42 spots to his name since 1999. Mr. Buckley is responsible for dozens of modern classics that make you laugh with brands like FedEx, Bud Light, Pepsi and many others.

Both interviews are part of a series created for Hulu, “The Art of the Super Bowl Ad,” with the stories behind some of the best Super Bowl ads in history. We hope you enjoy them as you get ready to watch the big game—and the ads in between.

on by in Advertising

More than a game, the Super Bowl is a cultural event, a truly American spectacle, and the ads are very much a part of the experience. Mix a big stage with big ambitions and budgets, and what you get are some memorable ads, as well some memorable misfires — not unlike the game itself. The best will make you laugh, think, or even feel something, whether it’s the warmth of Volkswagen’s “The Force” spot from 2011 or the emotion rendered in text by Google’s “Parisian Love” in 2010.

As you read this, directors of this year’s ads are putting the finishing touches on their work, some tinkering until the very last minute. Some ads will be veiled in secrecy until the second they appear on air; others will be released on the web early to generate buzz before the game. All will represent the brand’s best effort to connect with the public and to tell a story in 15, 30 or 60 seconds.

For advertisers, the stakes are high; this is their “Super Bowl,” too. With more than 110 million viewers in the U.S. alone, its the biggest TV audience of the year and they pay dearly for the privilege to reach them: $3.5 million for 30 precious seconds of air time.

While the hilarious gag is a mainstay of Super Bowl creative, last year we saw the pendulum start to swing back to ads that tell a story. This isn’t exactly a new trend: the two best Super Bowl ads of all time, Apple’s “1984” and Coke’s 1980 “Mean Joe Green” conveyed a narrative, which made them memorable. Last year, Chrysler took it further, airing a 2-minute mini-movie “Imported from Detroit,” which reintroduced the brand, and Detroit, to an audience that hadn’t thought much about either in a while. This year, expect more of the same. “You’re going to see the art form of storytelling take on a greater role in the Super Bowl,” NBC Sports advertising sales chief Seth Winter told Ad Age.

Here at Ad Age, we appreciate the art and science of advertising, whether it’s Clydesdale’s playing football or a bunch of guys who just had to say, “wassup.”  To get you ready for the Big Game, we dug through the archives of Super Bowls past and partnered with Hulu to bring you the best ads of all time. We’ll be adding “Behind The Work” videos in the coming days that tell the story behind some of the greatest of the past 50 years.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know in comments. And if you’d like to read more about the business behind the Super Bowl, you can visit us at AdAge.com.

on by in Advertising

With the playoff games behind us, Super Bowl XLVI is just around the corner, and we know it is time to get serious. After all, the days surrounding the big game are the one time we all go out of our way to watch — and talk about — commercials. That’s why we’re kicking off the Hulu AdZone, presented by Toyota. AdZone offers you easy access to all of the Super Bowl ads available on Hulu today, from iconic ads from as early as 1973 to preview ads from 2012 (like VW’s Bark Side). Browse through ads from 2008 to 2011, and new this year, Hulu has partnered with Advertising Age to highlight celebrity cameos as well as their expert picks for the most iconic Super Bowl ads of all time, including Apple’s groundbreaking “1984.” And don’t forget to come back on game day, February 5, to watch all of this year’s ads in real time, share them with your friends, and vote for your favorites. We’ll announce our users’ pick for the best ad of 2012 on Monday, February 6.

In the meantime, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite ads since Hulu’s first Super Bowl game and sorted them into themes for easy viewing. Here they are:

The Great (Editor’s Picks)
Among the flash-bang-whizz of Super Bowl ads, there are always a select few ads that rise above the noise with elegance, simplicity, clarity and humor. And yes, I’m plugging Hulu’s very own offering from 2009, or last year’s Skechers ad starring Kim Kardashian. I may have tagged it as a “miss” at the time, but a year later, I can still recall every second of Kim Kardashian. Looks like she was quite effective after all.

Big Laughs
Suprising, shocking, crass and clever — these are the LOLs of the Super Bowl.

Over the Top
Super Bowl commercials often dazzle, delight and entertain, but sometimes they just make you wonder if someone laced your Heineken with PCP. From SoBe’s incredibly cluttered lizard ads to GoDaddy’s constant attempts to trick you into thinking you’re about to see some skin, these ads leave us scratching our heads no matter how many times we watch them.

Babies and Animals
After years of practice, advertisers have learned the way to our collective hearts: babies and animals. Man’s best friend has been used to sell everything from cars to Gatorade, and we say “awwww” every time. While I’m no fan of E*Trade’s talking baby (if we really loved babies who speak in adult voices, we’d flock to the theaters to see “Look Who’s Talking 12,” and “Baby Bob” would still be on the air), you can’t deny that viewers have come to look forward to the snide little whipper-snapper who trades stocks like an ace.

Made by Fans
Since Doritos introduced their Crash the Super Bowl contest, ads made by fans have consistently made viewers’ favorite lists. In recent years, Pepsi has jumped in on the act, as well. The popularity of these fan-produced ads proves you don’t need to spend millions to create an effective ad.

Enjoy the AdZone on Hulu beginning today, share your favorite ads with your friends, and get ready to vote in real time for your favorite ads of Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 5 (official kickoff time: 6:25 p.m. EST).

on by in Advertising

We just closed the books on a big 2011 for Hulu.  As a team, we recently reflected on our 2011 investments in innovation and thought it would be an appropriate time to share some of those thoughts via this post.

First, some results:

- We grew the business 60% from 2010 to approximately $420 million in revenue. We exceeded our plan despite the soft advertising market (economy) in the second half of 2011. Overall the Hulu ad business grew aggressively and Hulu Plus materially exceeded our plan.

- Hulu Plus now has more than 1.5 million paying subscribers and this number continues to grow extremely fast. Hulu Plus has reached 1.5 million paid subscribers faster than any video subscription service launch (online or offline) in U.S. history. We are attracting more than 2x the number of subscribers each day when compared to this time last year. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, we expect our subscription services to account for more than half of Hulu’s overall business later this year.

- In 2011, we dramatically expanded the content available to Hulu and Hulu Plus customers. Hulu’s content offering grew approximately 40% vs 2010; Hulu Plus’ content offering grew more than 105%. Hulu Plus is the only online video subscription service that offers current season content from 5 of the 6 largest U.S. broadcast networks, with shows from The CW and Univision added this past quarter. In 2011, we added a long roster of great current series, including Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Misfits, Revenge, Terra Nova, Up All Night, New Girl, Una Familia Con Suerte, The Secret Circle, Hart of Dixie, Ringer, Community and many more.

- In 2011, we invested heavily in the development of apps that empower users to access Hulu Plus from a wide variety of devices. Hulu Plus is now accessible on leading consumer electronics devices and mobile operating systems with a combined installed base of over 200 million. Some of the new devices we developed custom applications for include: Microsoft Xbox 360, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble’s NOOK Tablet, select Android smartphones, LG, Panasonic and VIZIO TVs and Blu-ray players, and many more.

- The innovative Hulu advertising service continues to lead the online video advertising market, with the largest market share of a rapidly expanding market. We have now served over 1,000 brand advertisers in our company’s short history. We are relentless in our mission to be the most effective video advertising service on the planet, which we believe is a function of respecting users and empowering them with tools like Hulu Ad Swap and Hulu Ad Selector.

As you might expect based on the 2011 results mentioned above and our recent launch of Hulu in Japan, we as a team are very bullish on where things go from here. We have conviction that digital ultimately becomes the primary way that consumers across the globe choose to access content. We have been focused on building a strong foundation that empowers the Hulu team to best serve customers (users, advertisers, and content owners). As just one example, our dual revenue stream Hulu Plus business model enables us to compensate content owners much more than anyone else in the online subscription market on a per subscriber basis. At scale, our model allows us to profitably pay content owners approximately 50% more in content licensing fees per subscriber when compared to other similarly priced online subscription services. We believe our approach will enable us to secure more valuable content for our users and to secure content in more attractive windows than would otherwise be possible. To that end, we are excited to invest approximately half a billion in content in 2012 on behalf of our users.

Thank you for continuing to be a part of this Hulu journey and for allowing us to serve you. We will remain relentless in our pursuit of better ways.

Jason