Beyond the Laughs: Super Bowl Advertising

Super Bowl advertising really has turned into a fascinating spectacle. To me, one that surprisingly puts the brand storytelling and humor on the back burner.

Most people probably don’t pay much attention to anything but the 30 or 60 seconds of entertainment value they get, but I see the real intrigue lying in the various facets of the strategy. Please, read on.

30 seconds of airtime is going to cost what?!

Well, this year, the price tag is at a cool $5 million – up from $2.5 million about a decade ago. This doesn’t include the cost to produce the spot or to run it as part of a longer term media buy or integrated campaign. This isn’t chump change to even the really big companies (OK it may be to the Cokes and Amazons), but for just about everyone else, jobs and company reputations are on the line if it flops.

The build up.

It almost seems old fashioned to see a Super Bowl commercial for the first time during the Super Bowl. But with the hefty prices listed above, you can bet your bottom that companies will do everything they can to maximize their investment.

The new “traditional” way is to release the spots online in the weeks leading up to the game. The hope is that the spot is good enough to gain some traction and generate some early buzz. Some even choose to create a series of ads that will release leading up to the big game day reveal. Or some will run teasers of what’s to come, guaranteeing must-see TV (commercials).

And then some will employ the “intentional controversy” strategy. I recently learned that in any given year the network airing the Super Bowl may request advertisers to edit or revise their content to comply with a variety of standards. So of course, marketers see this as a way to capitalize by sharing juicy content that was “not safe for tv”. More on this below.

Do something crazy that everyone will love (or hate).

The often tried, never true, publicity stunt. Here’s one. Kraft Heinz wants to make the day after Super Bowl a national holiday. For real.

Citing reasons such as lost productivity, extensive call-ins due to “sickness” and really bad cases of the Mondays, they’ve created a petition at to garner support for making Smunday an observed holiday. If the petition reaches 100,000 supporters, the company says they’ll send it to congress.
I suppose I can get behind this one.

Then there’s the decision to even enter the big game at all.

Every year, there’s always a few first-time advertisers. How do these guys break through? Well this year 84 Lumber took the above mentioned approach of intentional controversy this year by submitting a spot to Fox that depicted the creation of a wall. Controversial? Yep. Brilliant? Probably.

So, Is it worth it?

According to Kantar Media, the Super Bowl has generated $2.59 billion in ad sales since 2007. Total ad spending climbed from $162.5 million a decade ago to $369.6 million just last year.
Clearly companies keep spending and people keep buying.

I personally tend to think it’s more worth it for the big name advertisers that have the brand equity and know-how to deliver a memorable spot that can be associated with their company. But for the newcomers, first-timers, and just inexperienced advertisers, it’s much more of a dice roll.

Maybe you don’t care about this stuff and just want to be entertained.

I pulled a few spots and teasers that have been released already to give you a little preview, along with my very professional analysis of them.

Snickers (teaser): For the first time in 36 years, a company is doing their commercial live. My expectations are low:

Intel: Based on celebrity selection, this might be the worst commercial I’ve ever seen.

Skittles: Funny, par for the course for the rainbow candy.

Squarespace: Sometimes a good f-bomb or two will get the point across.

GoDaddy: This doesn’t seem to pack the punch of Danica Patrick. Just saying.

Turbotax (teaser): You just have to watch this.

Happy viewing folks.

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