At Princeton-based Cure Auto Insurance, the creative process for its now annual controversial Super Bowl ads begin right after the conference title games — or just two weeks before they will air to the biggest television audience of the year.
It’s a seemingly impossible turnaround. But Eric Poe, the chief operating officer and visionary of the ads, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When the spots are germane to the actual teams that are playing, I think it resonates so much deeper than just a clever ad,” he said.
This year, they certainly did.
Poe and Cure Auto Insurance purchased two 15-second regional ads. Some ran in the New York/northern New Jersey market, some ran in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area.
And they played to the audience.
In northern New Jersey, the ad played to the area’s dislike of the cities involved — while taking a dig at their competition.
“Choosing between Boston and Philadelphia is like choosing between the Gecko and Flo … they both suck,” the ad said.
In Philly, he said, the vision was simple: Make fun of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The response was an ad that said, “If you cheat on car insurance, you get arrested. If you cheat in football, you get to sleep with a super model.”
The mock on Brady and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, was unmistakable.
And, amazingly, almost didn’t happen.
The original said, “you get to play in the Super Bowl.” But that was nixed for the use of ‘Super Bowl,’ which cannot be used.
“They wanted us to say, ‘the Big Game,’ ” Poe said. “But that doesn’t work, that doesn’t resonate with anyone.”
Being able to adjust on the fly, Poe feels, makes his ads better.
“If we actually thought about it for months, it wouldn’t be that funny,” he said, saying he had no ads featuring the Vikings or the Jaguars planned.
Cure has been running ads in the Super Bowl since the second Giants-Patriots game in 2012.
On three occasions, he said, his ads were rejected by the network, including one featuring the Patriots and Brady in 2015, the Patriots’ infamous ‘Deflate-gate’ season, when the punch line involved the phrase, ‘Blue Balls.’
Because of it, Poe said Cure is required to turn in its copy 48 hours sooner than most other advertisers.
Not that he minds.
Poe said the Super Bowl is the ultimate payoff.
“It’s scary the increase in business,” he said. “If you look at our new business following the Super Bowl ad, its 50 percent higher for the six months following the game, then it starts dwindling. You can see an immediate spike, we get such an influx of calls, it’s amazing.
“I can tell you, if you do it right, the Super Bowl is the mecca of advertising.”
The cost, he said, is worth it.
Even if he wouldn’t give exact figures.
A 30-second spot for this year’s game reportedly went for more than $5 million. Cure’s ad were shown regionally — and were for just 15 seconds.
Poe said the company’s discount was “definitely less than 50 percent” of the national ads.
And this year, since he waited to buy until the near the end of the regular season, he saved a little more.
Poe said the NBC affiliate in Philly was charging big rates when the Eagles ran out to a 9-1 start. But after starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down, the ad rates went down, too.
Poe who gets help from the creative team at Avenue Red and production assistance from Sarah Schatzinger, said it cost his company less than $50,000 to make the ads, far less than what national companies pay for their national spots.
And, he said, the return on investment is immediate.
Poe said he starts getting texts and calls from friends as soon as the ad ends. And while he knows business will pick up, he gets a true answer to the ad’s impact the day after the game.
“I got a call from a friend this morning,” he said. “She said, ‘I was just at the gym and these two women on the treadmill were talking about the Cure Auto commercial.’
“I said, ‘That’s the type of message you need to have.’
“If you don’t nail it, if you don’t get people talking about it the next day, you haven’t done your job. It’s a waste of your money.”