BlackBerry chooses more traditional route to drum up buzz over Super Bowl ad

TORONTO – After a week of massive hype for its new smartphones, BlackBerry has decided to remain secretive about its Super Bowl commercial in an effort to squeeze every bit of juice out of the pricey advertising campaign.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company, formerly known as Research In Motion (TSX:RIM), released a single frame of the 30-second TV spot on Friday, without any explanation of what it was, or what it meant.

The move goes against the trend of unleashing Super Bowl ads on the Internet ahead of the big game in an effort to generate extra hype.

This year, smartphone competitor Samsung chose to release its commercial starring comedians Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd on Thursday. Other major companies like Mercedes and Coke have also put their ads online.

“Without question, there’s more interest in the ads then there is in the game,” said Cary Kaplan, president of Cosmos Sports, a sports marketing company in Mississauga, Ont.

Statistics show that historically advertisers gain more traction from their Super Bowl TV spots if they’re released online prior to the event, which takes place on Sunday.

Last year, the Super Bowl ads uploaded to YouTube before the game were viewed 600 per cent more times, an average of 9.1 million views, compared to the ones that were put online after the game, according to the streaming video service owned by Google.

But this year, BlackBerry is going against the trend in hopes that they’ll be able to keep smartphone users guessing about what their advertisement is about and who it might feature.

The frame in the sneak preview shows an early 1980s Honda Accord parked alongside a meter. Behind it, there’s a colourful explosion of powder in front of stairs leading up to apartment No. 437.

The clues would suggest harkening back to the birth of the IBM personal computer, introduced to the market in 1981 using the coding 437 as its original character set, or more simply, the appearance of its font on screen.

It may be a clue because BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins touted the launch of the new smartphones this week as a new era in mobile computing, because the devices have nearly the same amount of processing power as a personal computer.

All of that won’t be revealed until the game on Sunday evening where the BlackBerry ad will air sometime after the third quarter in both the U.S. and Canada, the company said.

Kaplan said it makes sense for the BlackBerry ad to be kept shrouded in secrecy until the actual game.

“It’s not just an ad. It’s the most important product launch in its history,” he said.

“(For) most of the other companies doing ads… it’s not as dramatic.”

“I think they’re figuring if they release it ahead of time, it dilutes what they’re trying to do,” he added.

The new BlackBerry Z10 will arrive on store shelves in Canada on Tuesday and has already made its debut in the United Kingdom.

An early report from Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said the new touchscreen device sales are off to a “strong start” in the UK.

“Some stores had lineups out front with widespread sell outs of the white Z10 and limited stock of the black Z10,” he said in a note.

“Also, our checks indicate that pre-orders in the UAE and Canada have had a solid start. While this is not the crux of our call, these initial data points could provide some relief as many thought that the Z10 was DOA.”

The Super Bowl is the most-watched television event of the year, drawing 111.3 million U.S. viewers in 2012.

In Canada, last year’s broadcast drew a record 8.1 million viewers.

The event is also the most expensive event for advertisers, costing an average of $3.4 million for a 30-second spot on NBC last year, according to ratings firm Nielsen.

This year, estimates for how much CBS is charging for a 30-second spot vary wildly from between $3.6 million to $4 million. CTV declined to say how much it’s charging for Canadian airtime.

Also slated in the Super Bowl commercial lineup are advertisements from the Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO), with different versions airing on both sides of the border.

In the U.S., the company has purchased airtime in the midwest where its banks have a strong presence under the BMO Harris Bank brand. In the commercial, dubbed “Dream Home,” a young couple ponders the possibilities of buying a home, before they’re surprised when a real estate agent throws up a “For Sale” sign right in front of them.

BMO has also bought airtime in Canada, though it will be showing a commercial that has already aired during prime time.

Last year, a Harris-Decima Canadian Press poll found that more Canadians planned to watch the Super Bowl ads than the football game itself.