Marketing guru Seth Godin frequently talks about what he calls the TV-industrial complex: the glory time of television commercials when buying ads lead to more distribution for the product, allowing the company to sell more products, which in turn lead to the company making more profits, which then again allowed them to buy more ads. And so on.

The TV-industrial complex is no more. We can’t simply interrupt people whenever we want anymore – our time has become way too valuable; we now have to really interest people in buying stuff.

But every year, there’s one day when TV advertising still very much steals the spotlight: the day of the Super Bowl.

It’s the biggest sporting event of the year and also one of the biggest moments in the year for the advertising industry.

At the cost of up to $5 million for a 30 second ad, you’ll have over 100 million people (in the United States alone!) viewing your product. But of course only the major players – companies such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and General Motors – can afford Super Bowl advertising-time.

So what can marketers learn from the most expensive advertisements of the year?

Let’s take a look at a few cases.

Change the rules of the game

When the Super Bowl comes around, every company that wants to have their advertisement broadcasted on TV has to start outbidding their competitors. But most companies, especially the smaller ones, won’t be able to outbid their competitors in order to get their product promoted.

So instead of competing with your competitors, do what Volvo did: change the rules of the game.

In 2015, Volvo launched a social media effort to hijack every single car commercial during the Super Bowl – commercials that other similar companies had paid millions for.

How? By giving away a car. The rules were simple: in order to participate you only had to tweet #VolvoContest every time you saw ANY car commercial during the Super Bowl game, and you had to let in your tweet know who you thought should get a new car and why.

Quick math exercise: in 2015 the average company spend $4 million to have their advertisement displayed during the Super Bowl (that’s excluding the costs of actually producing the ad). But instead of spending $4 million, Volvo gave away 5 XC60’s at the price of $37,125 each.

Simply by being really creative, Volvo saved money, raised major awareness for their XC60 while at the same time hijacking the attention that their competitors received.

It you can’t outbid your competitors, outsmart them.

Know your target group

One of my personal favorites is “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign from Old Spice.

Now of course the ad is funny and it has a lot of impressive film effects, but the most genius part is how well the campaign understood the target group they were after: the campaign is about Old Spice Body Wash, a product oriented to men, but the campaign itself targeted women.

They targeted women because research of the company had shown that women are the ones making the purchasing decisions of hygiene products, even for male household members.

So instead of trying to show men how great Old Spice Body Wash is, the campaign focused on the target group who would actually buy the product: women.

That’s why the advertisement featured actor Isaiah Mustafa, on boats and on horses and most of the time without a t-shirt.

And the result? Sales increased with 55% in the first three months after the campaign was launched.

Now you don’t need Isaiah Mustafa to grow your brand, but you do need to understand your target group.

Showing the product, without focusing on the product

Like I said in the beginning: the TV-industrial complex is no more. We can’t simply interrupt people and tell them how great the product is that we have to offer – we have to really interest them in buying our product.

A fantastic example of that is ‘Volkswagen The Force’. The ad features a kid wandering around the house dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader. The kid continuously tries to use ‘The Force’ on everything around the house: a treadmill, the dog, the washing magazine and more, but nothing works.

Then at the end of the day, dad comes home and he parks his Volkswagen Passat on the driveway. While dad walks back into the house, the boy tries to give his powers one last shot and attempts to start his dad’s car. His dad, watching the scene from the kitchen, uses his car keys to start the car and leaves little Darth Vader completely astonished – his powers worked.

It’s a 1 minute advertisement and for more than half the time of the total ad, the car is not even displayed. And only in the last five seconds the text is displayed: “The all-new 2012 Passat, coming soon.”

The ad was cute, funny, and it had great potential to go viral. And it did. Even before the Super Bowl had started it had racked up 17 million views (64 million as of today) and it’s the most shared Super Bowl ad of all time and the second most shared TV commercial ever.

The lesson here? Stop trying to interrupt people with your message, but rather interest them in buying it.