It Takes a Village to Get Super Bowl Spots on the Air

Fred Cunha from Extreme Reach describes the process that goes into preparing a commercial spot for the Super Bowl

"Since I’m hands-on through the whole process, I know which spots are coming when, and it’s up to me to tell the network." -Fred Cunha, VP of Video Network & Support, Extreme Reach

Fred Cunha

Fred Cunha

The Super Bowl isn’t just for football fans, it’s also one of the biggest events that celebrates advertising. Close to 100 million people tuned in to see -- and critique the spots that come at the hefty price of around $5.25 million for 30 seconds.

The amount of planning that goes into these ads, with the arduous processes for scripting, casting and filming, is likely as extensive as that done by the stadium hosting the big game. What no one would guess, though, is the amount of work required to get the completed ads on the air.

Every year for the past eight years, I’ve been onsite at the network broadcasting the game for the entire week prior to make sure the ads handled by my company, Extreme Reach, are delivered in pristine quality. This year, that amounted to 28 minutes of commercial time in-game, which is 70 percent of the total national advertising time.

Since I’m hands-on through the whole process, I know which spots are coming when, and it’s up to me to tell the network. I join the screenings with brands and agencies and then carefully track the spots all until they are ready for air. In case of last-minute changes, I stay in constant contact with our teams and keep the network in the loop.

I’ve seen a lot over the years, but despite the changes, there’s one thing that never changes: the amount of teamwork involved. So, this year, I thought I’d call out some of the other unsung heroes whose work is critical.

Clearance

The Clearance Team makes sure the creative for an ad passes strict broadcast regulations, serving as liaison between the creative agencies, clients and network. Before production even begins, this team submits the storyboards from the creative agency to the network for review. After review, the network will either approve the concept, and Clearance will let the agency know they can proceed to a rough cut, or they’ll provide a list of issues that need to be addressed. Once the rough cut has been approved, the client submits the final version to the network.

Talents & Rights Management

There’s little risk that Jeff Bridges and Sarah Jessica Parker will go unpaid for their roles in Stella Artois’ Super Bowl spot, but there are a host of other performers for whom getting paid is way more complicated. This is where our Business Affairs and Talent team comes in. They work with creative agencies to manage union contracts for actors and musicians, seen and unseen, and then make sure they are paid for their work while also helping eliminate the risk of incurring large penalties.

Account Management

This is where we really get into things no one thinks about - the actual process of getting the finished ad content from agency, brand or advertiser to the network. This is the job of the Account Management Team, who coordinate the upload of the file, enter the metadata in our platform and provide instructions on production services. Finally, they place the delivery order, which is activated once the spot has completed quality control and production services.

Traffic

In order for a spot to air in the Super Bowl, the network requires a sales order followed by traffic instructions closer to the game. The media agency shares the media plan and works with the network to determine the placement. The Traffic team integrates the media plan and the placement to create traffic instructions that tell the network where the spot is airing (pre-game, pre-kick, in-game, post-gun or post-game).

Quality Control (QC)

Spots first undergo automated QC, a series of checks that include audio and video levels to make sure there aren’t any other issues. Once it passes this process, it goes to a specialist, who watches the spot many times, manually checking for things like channel mapping for surround sound,title safety and the overall quality of the commercial. If a spot fails either the automated or human QC, we work closely with the client to resolve the issue or get approval to air as-is. This year, there were a total of 10 spots with minor issues that fell into the latter category.

Operations

The Operations team handles all of the production services, with an emphasis on speed and accuracy. For Super Bowl spots, the main need is closed captioning. Depending on the network, closed captioning is either required or strongly encouraged for some or all Super Bowl programs. A Video Specialist creates the closed captioning, either following a client-provided script or by transcribing the content. They then add the closed captioning to the commercial and verify that the readability and caption placement are within FCC guidelines.

Once the spot is captioned and ready to be trafficked, the distribution order is activated automatically, and the spot is delivered to the network in their preferred file format.

Digital

While all this is going on for the linear broadcast spots, our Digital team works on getting campaigns for the Super Bowl served on all kinds of digital destinations including mobile, connected TV and more.

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts and many people behind the scenes making sure that when things don’t go as planned, issues are resolved quickly. A touchdown for our team means that every ad airs looking pristine and telling the story that the marketers and creatives behind it intended.

Extreme Reach revolutionized the way advertisers control the deployment of their creative and how the media sources those ads to execute campaigns. The company’s creative asset workflow platform, AdBridge, integrates all the paths and processes required by today’s complex media landscape.

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