Regional advertisers compete for a Super Bowl win

Regional advertisers M&T Bank and MedStar Health compete for Super Bowl ad attention.

Move over Pepsi, Budweiser and Coca-Cola.

Such national brands, known for big-budget, attention-grabbing advertisements during the Super Bowl, will share the stage this year with regional advertisers looking to make a splash in a more targeted, lower-cost way.

M&T Bank will use the biggest broadcast event of the year to launch a new marketing campaign, "Understanding What's Important," in Baltimore. The series of TV spots will feature bank customers' unscripted accounts of what matters in their lives, including the owner of a Rosedale manufacturing business who makes an emotional tribute to a disabled worker.

Eat24, a restaurant delivery website based in Silicon Valley, also will target Baltimore, plus four other cities, as it goes for exposure with its "Hangry" TV ad. The spot stars rapper Snoop Dogg narrating as comedian Gilbert Gottfried yells at a jar of pickles and mistakes a goldfish for sushi before Eat24 comes to the rescue.

"The Super Bowl is the biggest stage for TV advertising," said Amir Eisenstein, Eat24's chief marketing officer. "We're in a place that we can do it, and we decided to go for it. It was always a dream from the beginning to make it to the Super Bowl, and we finally made it."

Regional players make up about half the advertisers that bought time Sunday evening on WBAL-TV, the NBC affiliate broadcasting the match-up between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, said Dan Joerres, WBAL-TV general manager. Many are automotive, retail, banking and fast-food businesses.

"The show itself has sold very well this year, and that's no surprise," Joerres said. "Live events in local television have become the most sought-after product we have. … The [creativity] that comes out of local customers is typically something that's unique and new to the market, and they use the Super Bowl as a platform to reach the most people they possibly can in one fell swoop. This will be the largest ratings a live event will deliver all year long."

MedStar Health will air two 30-second TV spots focused on the Columbia-based health system's brand, one in Baltimore and another in Washington. The spots, appearing before the game, are part of a multimedia campaign launched in December. MedStar's ads have been featured during the Grammy Awards, the Golden Globes, NFL playoff games and other programs, said Debra A. Schindler, a MedStar spokeswoman.

Ads for Hair Cuttery, a regional chain based in Northern Virginia, will appear pregame in some markets and postgame in others, and will use an existing campaign to promote the brand.

"They are a mass audience brand, and this is an opportunity to reach a mass audience in one shot," said Howe Burch, president of Baltimore-based TBC advertising, the hair salon chain's ad firm.

While Super Bowl ads cost about 10 times more than regular-season ads — an estimated $4.5 million for a 30-second national commercial — local ads fall well below that and vary by market. Joerres declined to discuss rates for local Super Bowl ads. According to one industry estimate, a local 30-second spot shown during the game in Baltimore costs about $65,000.

Local ads are typically shown during breaks at halftime and other times during the game, when networks allow local carriers to run a "pod" of advertising, Burch said.

"In-game is very expensive, but you can buy shoulder programming, which still will deliver ratings significantly higher than a traditional pre-game show on any other Sunday," he said.

The benefits can be substantial, Burch said.

"You're reaching a lot of people at one time," he said. "You would have to buy many spots in many, many programs to reach that … audience. It's a showcase event."

But local ads need to be as effective or even more so than those of national brands, said Helayne Spivak, director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Brandcenter. Otherwise, she said, they risk getting lost in the shuffle.

"The audience is looking for the same things: It's got to cut through, it's got to compete … or you are the first trip to the bathroom," Spivak said. "If you're going to be in that kind of competition ... you better be the shortest person on the basketball team who really knows how to dunk."

M&T will debut its ads before, during and after Sunday's game. Besides Baltimore, the ads will be shown in Salisbury, Washington and markets in Pennsylvania and New York.

A pregame ad stars Wink Mather, president and owner of window and door manufacturer Acadia Windows in Rosedale, talking about his employee, Jessica Markle, who is seated next to him. Markle, who has a developmental disability and also is blind, has worked on the company's assembly line for a decade along with several other disabled workers hired through ARC of Northern Chesapeake.

"What's important to me, and Jess' dad helped remind me of that — the first year that Jess worked for us, one of the best moments of their life was when Jess got her first paycheck, and they went out to dinner, and this young lady paid for it," Mather says during the commerical as he chokes up. "That's what's important."

Mather said in an interview that when his company's longtime bank asked him to participate, he had no idea what he would be asked or talk about or even that Markle would appear too.

Markle's story illustrates his company's "never settle" culture, he said. He said that while Acadia had hired other disabled workers, he initially was concerned about safety because of Markle's blindness. But his employee team leaders reminded him to "never settle" and convinced him they could make it work. And it has.

"Jess is phenomenal," he said. "She completes her tasks correctly and works very steady and produces the volume that we need to produce on a daily basis."

M&T built its campaign around its longtime slogan, "Understanding what's important," said Betsey Locke, group vice president for advertising, promotions and sponsorships, who said launching during Super Bowl is a "great way to connect with audiences. People have made ad watching a pastime."

Augie Chiasera, regional president for M&T, said he hears from business and individual customers and "the stories are so compelling. The campaign … gives us a chance to share some of the more compelling stories with the wider community."

Nearly 70 percent of all Baltimore area households will likely watch Sunday's game, the same as last year, said Jim Crowley, a senior vice president and media director at Buffalo-based ad firm Crowley Webb, which worked on the M&T campaign.

Baltimore was targeted by Eat24 because it was one of the website's first East Coast cities and is among its top 10 strongest markets.

"Naturally, the cost is different, that goes without saying," Eisenstein said. "It's more about the targeting, spending the money right and not just going all over. In our marketing efforts, we try and focus our efforts and get the best bang for our buck."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

See the M&T ad

Check out M&T Bank's "Understanding What's Important" ad at http://youtu.be/Nnj4qA5nr0E

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