Monday, February 13, 2012

Do the Super Bowl Ads Work?

Since its inception, baseball has been dubbed America's favorite past time. However, Major League Baseball doesn't even come close to pulling in the kinds of audience numbers that the Super Bowl does every year. Based on the ratings the network, which has the rights to air the game, can charge exorbitant amounts of money for a 30 and 60 second spot. For Super Bowl XLVI, NBC was able to lock down prime positioning for commercials at a whopping $4 million per spot. Keep in mind that those spots sold well before the final two teams were picked for the game.

Do Super Bowl ads really work? If you consider that this year's audience topped 110 million viewers then clearly those advertising dollars were money well spent. A small business might not have that kind of revenue resources to pour into a single commercial. However, were they to create a compelling ad becomes "buzz worthy" a small business could turn into a very big business overnight.

Building a Brand

While it is hard to tie specific sales figures to a particular Super Bowl commercial, it is easy to measure improvements in a company’s brand name. A strong brand name can have consumers searching out those particular products when shopping time rolls around. In other words, no one will rush out to buy a Chevy pickup right after the Super Bowl. But something might have resonated with a potential car buyer that increases the awareness of Chevy. Because of that, when they're ready to hit the auto dealerships they might just give Chevy a look.

Advertisers want to create a positive experience about the products or companies they are producing commercials for. This is how a small business selling a product or service can gain a foothold in a competitive marketplace. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to have a commercial that is so popular that it demands increased viewings.

Going Viral

In 1984, long before social media and viral videos, Apple bought air time for one spot during the Super Bowl for their “1984” Macintosh ad, introducing the first personal computer. The ad ran only once on a major network, but has become one of the most influential commercials of all time. It actually managed to go viral through news program, even before the concept of viral was popularized!

The viral phenomenon has changed the advertising landscape greatly. By now you’ve had enough time to watch, re-watch, share and discuss the best (and worst) ads from last week’s game. Today, buying just one ad spot during the Super Bowl can translate into thousands or even millions of views on social media websites. 

With the advent of sites like YouTube and Facebook Super Bowl ad viewings have greatly increased. More folks will re-watch the Super Bowl commercials and send links to them than ever before. This means that the typical 60 second spot watch by 110 million viewers will have that number increase over time. The more someone watches a commercial the more entrenched that brand name will become. Last year's Super Bowl spot featuring a diminutive Darth Vader trying to use the force to turn on a Volkswagen Jetta was one of the most-watched commercials of all time. That was a big help to Volkswagen.

Sex and Humor Sells

A common theme that runs through many Super Bowl ads are sexy spokesmodels and lots of laughs. This brings up the issue of In 2005, Go aired their first Super Bowl spot featuring a sexy model in a revealing tease that encouraged viewers to head over to their website to see the rest of the commercial. This was a brilliant piece of marketing that had the viewers scrambling to get to the Internet! As a result, was able to instantly establish its brand name even though a sexy model had nothing to do with the product it was selling. Since then the commercial has become an annual favorite that viewers look forward to during the Super Bowl. They went from a small business pulling in 16% of the market share to an online giant now capturing 50% of the market share all based on that first Super Bowl commercial. They are just one of the many examples proving that Super Bowl ads do work.

Memorable Advertising

The great thing about Super Bowl ads is that they can be so creative and memorable that the ads can easily be associated it to the brand. The Budweiser clydesdales. The E-Trade talking babies. The Geico cavemen. Marketers know that when brands are easily associated with their commercials, they’ve made a good ad. But this isn’t always the case.  Sometimes brand association can backfire if the ad content is too good, making the brand become lost in the story line. Conversation may be spurred about the content of the ad, but can fail to create buzz around the brand itself. For instance, can anyone remember what brand the ‘Ferris Beuller’s Day Off’ ad was for? Anyone? Anyone?

There was a time, before the popularity of the internet and social media, when most people would call advertisers crazy for shelling out millions for one ad spot during the Super Bowl. But now that people have the ability to easily re-watch and share their favourite ads, it makes spending such large amounts actually seem worth it in the end for the branding, memorability and buzz that are afforded to the Super Bowl big spenders.