February 2, 2017

Are Ads During ‘The Big Game’ Worth It?

Kyle Blakely, CEO

Today we’re going to talk about one of the most over-analyzed questions in advertising history — are ads during the “Big Game” worth it? At costs approaching $5 million for a national 30-second spot and $7,000 to $10,000 in Colorado Springs, it’s still an interesting question — even if it’s been debated to death ever since Apple debuted its “1984” spot in, well, 1984.

By the way, that spot is still widely viewed as the greatest in Big Game history. It’s also in the advertising Hall of Fame and Advertising Age lists it among the 50 greatest ads of all time (at least according to Wikipedia, which is sort of like the Donald Trump of encyclopedias — widely quoted, but not always accurate). And it only aired twice, with the only national airing during the Big Game.

Back to the matter at hand. My answer to this question is similar to my answer anytime someone asks me whether or not a particular type of advertising or communication is effective — “It all depends.” (Maybe Depend adult diapers should consider advertising in the Big Game. I may have a concept for them.)

“On what?” they usually ask.

“On what you’re trying to accomplish,” I usually respond.

See, deciding if you should do a Big Game ad is only relevant as part of a larger strategic discussion. It has to fit with an overall, integrated communications strategy because the likelihood of an ad during the Big Game working by itself is pretty slim. Today, the ad also needs to work with your digital and social media strategies, plus any other traditional strategies, such as earned media. But earned media only works if the spot is incredibly clever, or controversial (which may not help you).

There are also three crucial questions that should be answered and obvious in the commercial.

  1. Who is the target audience?
  2. What makes the product or service unique?
  3. What is the benefit you’re providing to your target audience?

But that’s just my opinion. What do others say about this?

The only research I could find was mentioned in a three-year-old article in Forbes, by a writer who saw the study mentioned in an article in the Huffington Post. The study, by Communicus, a firm that specializes in evaluating advertising campaigns, stated that “Only 1 in 5 Super Bowl ads actually sells products.” (The study was based on a review of 2013 ads during the Big Game.)

That doesn’t sound very promising, unless you can decipher what the successful 20% did and replicate it. Which isn’t always easy.

So what’s the conclusion? Your best bet is to take a shower, shave with your Dollar Shave Club razor, put on the nice clean clothes you washed in Persil Detergent, get in your Jeep or Honda and drive to your friend’s party. When you get there, crack open a Budweiser and watch the ads in this year’s game. By the way, those brands scored highest in Communicus’ analysis of the ads that ran in last year’s game.