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Are Super Bowl Ads Still Worth It?

logo_2010-Super-BowlSuper Bowl advertisements have long been one of the best ways to get your brand exposure and eyeballs. Take Go Daddy for example. The company, known for its racy advertising, began airing 30-second commercial spots during the Super Bowl in 2005. Since then, Go Daddy has become the largest certified domain registrar in the world, with more than 36 million domains under its management.

The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched television events on a yearly basis, with somewhere between 40 – 43% of households watching (98 million viewers in 2009). Two days ago, Nielsen released survey results that stated just over half of the audience that tunes into the Super Bowl enjoys the commercials more than the actual game. “This survey reinforces the value of the Super Bowl as a marketing bonanza, featuring one of the most receptive TV audiences in the world,” said Randall Beard, executive vice president of Nielsen IAG. “With so many viewers waiting for the pitch, the pressure is on advertisers to create and place ads that will have a lasting impact.”

The big kicker is that Super Bowl ads are not cheap! Last year, a 30-second spot cost $3 million. With a lot of advertising turning towards social media in the past year, a very low-cost initiative, companies are becoming a little more hesitant to spend the money on one Super Bowl ad. Suddenly they can get far more “bang for their buck” online.

Some Companies Have Had Enough

Twinkie240In mid-December, PepsiCo Inc. announced that they would not advertise in the 2010 Super Bowl, ending a 23-year run. Instead, the company has decided to put the money into a new, online marketing effort. Last year, between advertisements for Pepsi, Gatorade, and Cheetos, PepsiCo Inc. spent $33 million. They admit that the Super Bowl still brings incredible value to their brands. However, it is making less and less sense for them to put that kind of money into one event, when they can spread it out online. Pepsi spokeswoman, Nicole Bradley, said “In 2010, each of our beverage brands has a strategy and marketing platform that will be less about a singular event and more about a movement.”

Other companies have backed out of the Super Bowl as well. FedEx has decided not to advertise in 2010, for the second year in a row, citing cost issues. General Motors has also decided not to advertise in the Super Bowl. So, while the Super Bowl still possesses great value for brands, it simply isn’t making as much sense as it used to to spend that kind of money.

Other Brands Are Getting Creative

While some major companies are pulling out of the Super Bowl, others are finding logo-CTSBways to be innovative. This year, the Doritos brand has launched its fourth annual Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” challenge, inviting regular people to create self-made advertisements to be aired during the big game. For the past few years Doritos has been getting interactive with its fans and consumers by allowing them this opportunity. This year there is an added incentive. According to a press release, contestants this year “are shooting to make history by beating the ad pros and garnering the top three spots in USA TODAY’s annual Ad Meter. If they can do it, Doritos will award the winners a shared $5 million cash prize.” Online consumers will decide which of the six finalists (chosen by Doritos) will have their ads run in the Super Bowl. Fans in the U.S. can vote once per day between January 5 and 31, 2010.

Doritos has done a nice job with this campaign. By creating an interactive and engaging process for their fans, they have created an “out of the box” Super Bowl campaign. For them, it’s worth it to spend the rumored $2.5-2.8 million per commercial, because they are building their brand and engaging with customers along the way. They created a captivating campaign that will build up to the Super Bowl that has a lot of people invested. You can bet all of those fans who voted will tune in to see which commercial made it.

One note I would point out is that, while they are promoting the campaign through Twitter and Facebook, their Twitter account (@DoritosUSA) has around 700 followers. While their Facebook page has about 750,000 fans, there is no real community there. Fans post infrequently, and their status updates don’t get a lot of interaction. It seems Doritos doesn’t focus too much on their social media accounts. I think the campaign could have been a real home run had the brand found a way to incorporate social media a bit more.

A Tough Decision

So what do you think? Is it still worth it for advertisers to spend the money on Super Bowl commercials when they can spread that amount of money over a much larger campaign through social media and probably see more meaningful results? In my opinion, it’s really a case-by-case basis. The Super Bowl is heavily watched, and there is solid proof that about half of the audience is just watching for the commercials. The Super Bowl has always been known for its great commercials, and I don’t think that will change just yet. Each year, we will see 30-second commercial spots continue to drop in price as brands see less of a reason to spend the money. Pepsi, FedEx, and GM have already bailed, and more companies will follow their lead. We now live in a world where brands have to engage. With that shifting mentality, it will be interesting to see if and when Super Bowl commercials will really become obsolete.

Truth be told, I love Super Bowl commercials, and I’m looking forward to watching them this year. Obviously, the game comes first.

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8 Responses to Are Super Bowl Ads Still Worth It?

  1. Dave Fuller January 25, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Superbowl ads are pretty cheap and they work. Let’s consider the numbers for a second. $3 million gets you in front of 98 million relatively targeted people for 30 seconds. That’s 0.03 cents per person. That’s not even considering the ‘super-bowl ad’ specials, websites, blogs and other places where the ads are reviewed and talked about.

    “Social Media” is going to have to work really hard to achieve that kind of outcome on its own. Even hitting 98 million people via social media is going to be tough as social media is still used by a subset of consumers.

    The demographics of the superbowl is also different to online tools. Though we ‘early-adopters’ like to evangelise, there is still a (huge) percentage of the population who don’t have a facebook or twitter account.

    The Doritos example is a great one because it is based on the fact that integrating the two media gives the best results. It’s not about one or the other, it is about a convergent approach.

    Obviously different platforms work better for different brands. Established brands like Pepsi, probably don’t get too much out of it. I am unlikely to switch brands or increase my consumption because of a superbowl ad.

    On the other hand, GoDaddy is building mass-market awareness and for that purpose, Superbowl ads are very powerful.

    My guess is that the Superbowl, like the 100 metre final at the Olympics and a couple of other TV events will always be able to command high advertising prices, but the really savvy brands will combine their spots with supporting activation on whatever the trendy technology of the day is.

  2. Sam Taggart January 25, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Dave,

    Great thoughts. Thanks for your comment.

    You’re right in that Super Bowl ads are cheap at $.03/impression, and that Social Media by itself would have a hard time reaching such a massive audience.

    However, it’s more about what is effective. If you’re not converting viewers into customers, then what are you really achieving?

    Obviously, every brand is unique. Everyone is going to have to decide what is best for themselves. It’s about creating engagement with your viewers. Doritos is doing a nice job with their current campaign.

    We’ll see. I don’t think Super Bowl commercials are going to go away anytime too soon. They are still effective to an extent, but brands are going to have to get creative to keep it that way.

  3. Broad Ripple Tickets January 27, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    Indianapolis will make it on the top! Go Blue!

  4. Naples web design August 26, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    How come a super bowl advertisement is a lot cheaper than a regular advertisement? in fact the super bowl is a lot bigger and it can really attracts people.

  5. Naples web design August 26, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    How come a super bowl advertisement is a lot cheaper than a regular advertisement? in fact the super bowl is a lot bigger and it can really attracts people.

  6. perth web design September 26, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    In my own opinion yes it is. It is the most watched event in the US and it is surely a good investment to run your advertisement during the game.

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