Super Bowl Ads – Super Marketing Or Super Waste of Money

My wife is from Pittsburgh, so you know what I was watching Super Bowl Sunday. Being a lifelong Bengals fan, it was painful for me to watch the game. Although the game wasn’t played well by either team, it was fun to watch the advertisements. I watched the ads not from a football fan or TV viewer’s perspective, but from a marketing perspective. My goal was to figure out if each ad was a super ad or a super waste of money.

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The cost per ad in a Super Bowl time slot is reported to be somewhere between $800,000 and $2.5 million. How could one commercial be worth that much money? Can it possibly pay for itself?

I judged each ad by several criteria to determine if it was worth the money. I also judged the ads from an automobile dealer’s perspective to see if anything could be learned and be used on a smaller scale superslot.

First, I judged whether the ad caught my attention. This can be accomplished through humor and other emotional connections. Some of the commercials grabbed you immediately and compelled you to watch while others almost forced you to lose interest from the beginning. Remember, market share of mind precedes market share.

Next, I judged if the commercials kept my attention and created interest in the product or service. Some of the commercials grabbed your attention and then got lost in their journey to reach their final destination. A simple question of “What are we trying to accomplish?” would have eliminated this problem.

Another important aspect was if the ad created a desire to either find out more about the product or service or to buy it. The biggest lesson to be learned here is that some advertising companies sell a bill of goods to their clients. The ad company gets the client all wrapped up in the creative factors, such as how funny it is or how clever the production is. However, the real reason for the advertisement is to sell something now or in the future.

I remember one funny and clever ad that showed a woman on an airplane getting up to go to the bathroom in the dark and trying to climb over a male passenger who was sleeping. Next the lights came on and the male passenger awoke to the woman straddling him and in an embarrassing position. However, I can’t tell you who the company was, what its product or service was or how the ad related its benefits. In my opinion, the company would have been better served to spend the money on a huge party. At least it would have improved company morale. Unfortunately, the ad accomplished nothing.

On the other hand, FedEx had a creative and humorous ad that featured a prehistoric man attaching a large bone that was to be delivered using a large prehistoric bird. The bird was attacked by another animal and the delivery was not successful. When the prehistoric man went back to the cave and told another man what had happened, the man replied, “You should have used FedEx.” The ad was funny, reinforced the brand, the slogan and the overriding benefit of their service. The ad is memorable and creates emotional anchors of fear and confidence. The ad created fear of using another service while also creating confidence in the FedEx brand. Brilliant.

Another good example was Budweiser. Budweiser ran multiple commercials that were effective. The size of the Super Bowl creates a huge reach. However, by running multiple effective ads, Budweiser created frequency as well. Budweiser accomplished in one Super Bowl game what many companies could only dream of accomplishing in the lifetime of a company.

As a dealer principal, most likely you can’t afford an expensive multi-year image campaign. You must bring buyers to your showroom floor now. You must use direct response marketing that gets immediate results. You can’t afford the mistakes made by many of the companies advertising in the Super Bowl. You want, need and deserve super results.

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