BlackBerry releases single frame of TV spot to drum up buzz

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.

Recent statistics have shown that advertisers gain more traction from their Super Bowl TV spots if they’re released online before 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.

Going against the trend, the BlackBerry maker will keep smartphone users guessing about what their advertisement is about and who it might feature. Certainly the company’s publicity team carefully chose which frame to release as its sneak preview.

The frame shows an early 1980s Honda Accord is 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 has 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 proven true or false until the game on Sunday evening where the BlackBerry ad will air sometime after the third quarter, the company said.

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 charges 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.