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Super Bowl Ads … Worth it or not?

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With Super Bowl XLVII (that’s 47) about a month away, the coverage of the advertising is sure to pick up. From the price of a 30-second spot ($4 million!) to who is, and isn’t, advertising, the commercials get almost as much coverage as the actual game.

Is it worth it? An Ad Age piece says it’s not, calling the game the “dumbest night for advertisers.” And it may certainly be the dumbest in terms of cost and ROI, but you can’t argue with the potential eyeballs. The Super Bowl is annually the most watched event on TV, and in many years the commercials have been the best part about the game.

But let’s go back to the Ad Age piece for a moment, as there are many things inherently wrong with the author’s positioning. First, he cites many statistics about the reduction of brands’ reputations in the eyes of consumers. The issue is that many of the brands with a bad reputation are financial services companies, which have A. had a bad reputation for years and B. rarely, if ever, advertise during the game. Customer loyalty is also on the decline, says the author, but is that due to the Super Bowl? Shouldn’t these brands try anything and everything, including Super Bowl ads, to retain their customers? And if loyalty is so fleeting, attempt to take customers from their competition?

The author also writes that ads have moved away from providing information and selling a product, which is what David Ogilvy said 50 years ago. Well, first of all there was no Super Bowl 50 years ago and if there was it’s a sure thing that there would have been Ogilvy clients advertising. And second, of course brands are trying to sell product. Don’t you think Bud Light is trying to move product and get those guys making a beer run at halftime to buy their brand?

The main issue with Super Bowl spots has been the execution and the digital component. Many ads in past years have just been bad, there hasn’t been one that has resonated with the public, with the possible exception of the Volkswagen Star Wars spots last year and the year before.

The other issue is the digital component. VW did it right, releasing the spots on YouTube in advance of the game and generating great buzz. But what’s missing is brands capitalizing on the advent of the “second screen,”  or people with a tablet or smartphone in hand while watching the game. Brands would do well to promote a limited time coupon or special offer that people can get while watching the game, giving them a better idea of how a Super Bowl spot impacts sales.  Or developing a gated Facebook tab with a special offer, that simultaneously generates Likes in addition to social sharing and purchases.

The bottom line is that the Super Bowl is a great spot to advertise, it just needs to be done right, on as many screens as possible.

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