Amy Poehler needs help with a smartphone at Best Buy.
That pretty much sums up Best Buy's Super Bowl commercial this year, set to air during the first quarter of the game on Feb. 3. But while the premise sounds relatively simple, the Richfield-based consumer electronics retailer has put a great deal of thought and money behind its 30 seconds of air time.
First of all, it's the Super Bowl, the most-watched television event of the year, a time when the commercials command just as much attention as the game itself. That kind of exposure is why big brands like Anheuser-Busch, General Motors, and Best Buy this year spent about $4 million per spot.
"You have an audience of over 100 million people," Scott Durchslag, the company's senior vice president of digital and marketing, said in a phone interview. "The Super Bowl is a very good fit for the Best Buy customer demographic. You have a chance to tell people why they should come to a Best Buy."
And in tapping Poehler, the "Saturday Night Live" and "Parks & Recreation" veteran who recently hosted the Golden Globes, Best Buy hopes to connect its store brand with Poehler's appealing and accessible brand of funny. Durchslag said the company gave Poehler "a lot of creative freedom" with the commercial, directed by Academy Award-nominated short film director Bryan Buckley.
"She is sort of the everyperson in trying to deal with the complexities of technology," Durchslag said.
The commercial also offers Best Buy the chance to remind people the retailer is very much relevant despite a difficult 2012, said Laura Kennedy, an analyst with the Kantar Retail consulting firm outside of Boston.
Last year, the company was beset by a wave of bad publicity: former CEO Brian Dunn resigned amid allegations of an affair with a female employee. Founder Richard Schulze left the company only to return with a high-profile campaign to purchase Best Buy with private equity money. Best Buy also struggled to grow sales as more shoppers migrated to Internet retailers like Amazon.com.
But the retailer ended last year on a high note, posting better-than-expected holiday sales in December. A well-received Super Bowl ad could help solidify Best Buy's positive momentum, analysts say.
"The average consumer may just have heard the bad headlines," Kennedy said. "But Best Buy is still a major force in retail, and there's value in communicating that."
It's no accident that Best Buy chose to highlight smartphones in its commercial despite its traditional dominance in televisions and personal computers, whose sales have lagged in recent years. The company's Best Buy Mobile format, which focuses mostly on smartphones, has been a huge source of growth and profits.
As Best Buy plans to remodel more of its traditional stores into smaller "Connected Stores," the company hopes to devote additional space to smartphones, tablets and e-readers and less space to CDs and DVDs. The company told investors that such a strategy could generate an additional $200 million in operating income.
The company plans to follow the Super Bowl ad with another commercial the following day that promotes a specific mobile offer. Social media will also play a big role, Durchslag said.
Best Buy's previous two Super Bowl commercials have been something of a mixed bag.
In 2011, the company enlisted Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber to help tout its new "Guaranteed Buyback" program, an incentive plan for consumers to upgrade their electronics, which was ultimately discontinued. But TechForward, a firm Best Buy hired to help with the program, accused Best Buy of stealing proprietary software design. A California jury recently awarded TechForward $22 million in damages.
Last year, Best Buy debuted its "Innovators" commercial, hoping to link the retailer with inventors of breakthrough technologies like text messages, camera phones and social media games. But consumers might not have made that connection, Kennedy said.
"I don't know if anyone knew the commercial was for Best Buy," she said.
But Durchslag said the commercial more than justified its cost as the number of consumers who signed up for its mobile offers exceeded Best Buy's expectations.
"The Super Bowl has been a proven platform for us," he said.
Thomas Lee 612-673-4113