Why Super Bowl Ads Should Cost Five Times As Much
by Richard Smullen,
Are Super Bowl commercials worth more than $2.6 million for :30? I think so, and here is my logic.
Last year the New Orleans Saints’ victory over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl was viewed by more than 106 million people, surpassing the 1983 finale of “M*A*S*H” to become the most-watched program in U.S. television history, the Nielsen Co. reported in February 2010. Over the years, brands have bought into the hype of this highly watched and anticipated event, and many pony up the millions of dollars for the cost of an ad and the sometimes award-winning creative.
In 2011, marketers are committing $2.6 million for 30 seconds of exposure to this vast audience of potential consumers, but is Fox leaving money on the table? This assertion will not make me popular with the Anheuser-Busches and Career Builders of the world, but I happen to think that Super Bowl ads should cost about five times as much. Why?
Excitement around the Super Bowl and the ads starts well before the day of the game. Articles are already appearing about the Anheuser-Busch family posting images of their ad on Facebook, and the news about Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber teaming up for a Best Buy spot is also gaining traction, understandably so. Brands take advantage of the dollars they spend by creating interesting news about the ads, and once the game is over, ads end up on the Internet and advertising reporters and bloggers talk about them even more.
While many argue that Super Bowl ads are a waste of money because of their lack of frequency, they forget that the brands who create these ads spend a lot of time promoting the ad itself and gaining exposure well beyond the anticipated :30 spot.
They also forget about the power of the call to action. Some of you may recall the Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl spot from 1999 that drove so much traffic to its Web site that its server crashed. Perhaps you recall the Career Builder ad that was paired with an online viral media promotion, Monk-e-Mail, which, after a couple of years is still going strong. According to Stuart Elliott of the New York Times, “The peak for Monk-e-mail came in April 2006, when there were more than 4.4 million visits in 30 days. People continue to use it, the company reports, with hundreds of thousands of visits tallied each quarter; 20 percent of all visits have occurred after 2008.” Frequency arguments do not hold water if a brand takes advantage of the ad beyond the one-time spot.
Now let’s quantify the value and go a little deeper…
It is reported that 25% of viewers will tune in to the Super Bowl just to watch the ads. Of course, we know a majority of the others will pay rapt attention, yet the CPMs charged for the Super Bowl are roughly equal to any highly rated prime-time program.
We know from our internal data that when ads are relevant to consumers, they are 50x more likely to interact with the brand being promoted. I call this the “attention” factor. As stated before, excitement around Super Bowl commercials happens weeks before the event and continues well after the event itself, which adds additional opportunities for consumers to pay attention and interact with the brand.
SuperBowl ads achieve similar engagement levels to opt-in networks because they both deliver higher engagement, and ultimately — better marketing results for a product or service.
With higher engagement, brands only need to spend about 1/5 of the amount on conventional media impressions to get better performance and ROI. With all of this in mind, if you add in the “attention” factor, Super Bowl ads are actually worth 5x the current asking price or more than $10 million.