Before you watch the Super Bowl tonight, you could, should you be so inclined, head over to YouTube and watch a preview of an ad Kia will be airing during the game. The spot features the Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima wearing very little and doing even less: She spends the entirety of the ad, hilariously and (one presumes) at least partially satirically, swaying, saying nothing, and waving a checkered racing flag. Very, very slowly.
The ad -- the "tease," as it were, of what we'll see tonight -- is five hours long.
Five. Hours. Long.
Super Bowl commercials (the experience of, the economics of, etc.) used to be pretty straightforward: Advertisers would gladly pay tons of money for a slot during the game's broadcast because an ad aired during the game's broadcast was an amazingly efficient way of getting a message out to tons of people. That's still the case -- a 30-second space is going, this year, for $3.5 million, up from $3 million last year -- but the mechanics of the messaging are changing, and rapidly. Super Bowl ads are no longer simply ads, in the Traditional Teevee sense; they're campaigns that play out, strategically, over time. Instead of functioning as commercial broadcasts unto themselves, they're acting more and more like episodic touchpoints for an expansive cultural conversation.
In that context, Kia's five hours' worth of semi-satiric substi-porn aren't actually that -- that -- unusual. Many of the other ads that will air during the game tonight won't be airing for the first time, either. They'll have made their debuts already ... on the Internet. Volkswagen's Super Bowl spot has already been posted to YouTube, where it has garnered over 3 million views. Chevy's? More than 1 million views. Honda's, starring a re-Bueller-ized Matthew Broderick? Over 11 million.