Can 360 Degree Ads be the New “MVP” of Brand Advertising on Digital?: Takeaways from the Super Bowl Ad Blitz

Super Bowl Ads

This article was co-authored by Laura Barton.

And that’s a wrap for another Super Bowl! For some (Tom Brady, Pats fans, Lady Gaga), the Super Bowl was a success; others (Falcon’s QB Matt Ryan, any Atlanta fan, the guy who put a cool million on the Falcons to win in Vegas), it was a disappointment. What’s interesting is that the Super Bowl being a success or a disappointment doesn’t apply to just the game itself – it also applies to the ads that were shown. Because though millions watch the Super Bowl for the sport, there are a large number of people that watch the Super Bowl just for the ads. In fact, the younger you are (i.e millennials), the more likely you are to watch the game almost exclusively because of the commercials.

Watching the Super Bowl primarily to see the ads is a bit of a phenomenon when we live in a society where ad blindness is rampant and ads can be perceived as a nuisance. For most of the year, ads are something we skip as we see them as interruptions to content we actually want to consume. It’s only during rare occasions, like the Super Bowl, where we actively seek ads out and are actually excited for them. As writer Derek Thompson points out in a recent article published in The Atlantic, with Super Bowl commercials, people not only pay attention to them, they actually discuss, analyze, and write articles about them (we’re no different). He goes on to say that, “On most days, readers click out of ads to read articles online. For one day out of the year, they read a lot of articles only to click on the ads.” But what is it about Super Bowl ads? Why is it one of the only times during the year that people actually seek out ads? The answer: Great brand storytelling.


Brand storytelling is huge as it is ultimately a form of entertainment and humans love be to entertained. Since the dawn of time, we have fed our lust for stories. Some psychologists argue this relates to the importance of imitation in our social and cognitive processes. As such, it is the “imitative process” of our minds that makes it easy for us to put ourselves in other’s shoes and use our imaginations to enter stories. It’s this ability that enables us to lose ourselves and connect with others – including brands, as we partake in the storytelling experience. Super Bowl advertisers figured this out years ago and it explains why as the quality of Super Bowl commercials has improved so has the expectation grown that the ads shown will quench this desire to be entertained.    

So while we may be prone to skipping ads, for one magical ‘super’ day we put this inclination aside in anticipation of ads that tell a good story and resonate with us on some level. An article published last year by Ad Week hit the nail on the head. Though skipping ads has arguably always been a thing (“Skip Ad” buttons, fast-forwarding, snack breaks during commercials), people don’t do that for all ads. People actually love ads that take storytelling seriously and nowhere is this taken more seriously than when it comes to creating a Super Bowl worthy ad.

The best and most celebrated ads have always been those that tell great stories because the best creatives know the key to winning over consumers is to share stories that are worthy of their time.

Scott Donaton

Chief Content Officer, Digitas Studios

So as digital ad spend now eclipses that of TV, what lessons can be drawn from the success of Super Bowl ads and applied to the realm of digital advertising? And how does this relate to 360 degree ad formats?

We’d argue that perhaps we’ve been getting it wrong with how we approach digital advertising. For better or worse, digital advertising has been predominantly leveraged as a direct response tool. Shackled by the proverbial “click” mentality where success is measured by immediate actions taken, we have in large part abandoned brand advertising on digital. Perhaps that’s because the ROI of brand advertising isn’t something that’s seen immediately – it’s the process of building brand equity which can take weeks, months or even years to cultivate. But in a world where impressions and CTRs are the bars for success, how can a marketer justify leveraging digital for brand marketing? Furthermore, how they can measure the effectiveness of same? Enter 360 degree display ads.


With the advent of 360 degree ad technology a revolution in the digital ad landscape could be at hand. One where hit you over the head, intrusive, obnoxious “buy now, buy now” direct response ad messages are replaced with more entertaining, brand connecting – dare we say Super Bowl caliber, ads. No longer are advertisers relegated to the hard sell because they have within their grasps an entirely new tool for brand advertising.

Here are just a few reasons why the rookie on the ad scene – 360 degree ads, can score big in the game of brand marketing on digital – especially mobile. We predict that it won’t be too long before brands from all industries recognize this new star player and start leveraging this highly engaging and effective new ad format.

  1. 360 degree ad formats provide advertisers with a much larger and entirely new ad canvas by which to tell their brand story. This canvas is bigger than any TV screen.
  2. 360 degree content provides levels of brand immersion never before possible.
  3. The very nature of 360 content exploration means that you have a captive audience – not many ad mediums can say that.
  4. 360 degree ads come with an entirely new set of data collection points that not only track viewability but also provide enhanced & invaluable engagement metrics. These very metrics can arm brand marketers with much more than ROI justification, they can provide more insight into consumer behavior and preferences.
  5. Studies have shown that 360 content has the ability to emotionally connect with an audience because it makes them feel like they are a part of whatever content they’re consuming. (Add a one-touch virtual reality mode to this & this is enhanced exponentially.)
  6. 360 degree content delivers higher engagement rates, better brand recall, and better content recognition than traditional forms of advertising.
  7. When it comes to brand equity, consumers have overwhelming positive views towards brands that leverage cutting edge technology like 360 and VR.
  8. 360 degree and virtual reality ads that can play on any mobile device, tablet or desktop are so new and so engaging that there’s bound to be buzz around any brand that effectively uses them (It’s that first mover advantage thing we keep harping about!)  

So as the dust settles from yet another Super Bowl, marketers should rejoice in the fact that consumers actually do like advertising when it’s done right. We should further celebrate that with game-changing technology like 360 degree advertising we have a new MVP in the digital ad space. It not only satiates consumer desires to be entertained but also supports brand marketing initiatives of strengthening the consumer-brand connection thereby building up brand equity.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like: Why your mobile ad spend should be in 360 degree content

Learn about the different ways and formats that you can leverage 360/VR ads through this free eBook.

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