Super Bowl Ads: Worth The Cost?

SB ads

Ad Age, Adweek and other business publications are pulsating with articles about Super Bowl ads. From the cost, to the worth, to the waste, everyone has an opinion. So, why not me?

Companies with deep pockets will ante up an average of $4 million for a 30 second spot. For some, the super bowl buys will be their entire advertising budget for the year.

In our own beloved booze business, we will see ads for Budweiser and Bud Light and I hope they’ll do better than in the past. (See Feb 8, 2011 posting) In addition, there will be ads for new products such as Budweiser Black Crown and Beck’s Sapphire. There may be as many as 3 30-second ads and 3 60-second ads. You do the math.

Aside from great seats at the game and Cheshire cat smiles from the ad agencies, are theses expenditures worth it?

According to a report from Kantar Media, far more viewers “remain riveted” to the tube, even during ads, than generally. (Really? I must be the exception.) Further, last years’ audience reach was reported to have been a record 111 million viewers.

Clearly, as a mass reach vehicle, there is nothing better than the Super Bowl. But is that all there is to advertising and brand building?

I came across a terrific article on the opinion page of Ad Age by Jonathan Salem Baskin, President of Baskin Associates. I don’t know him but his views on the Super Bowl are very similar to my own. But, he says it better.

“At risk of being the lone outlier on this… I say the Super Bowl remains the dumbest night for brands. It’s one huge commercial for what’s wrong with advertising in particular (second only to the recent political campaigns), and indicative of the continuing malaise underlying most branding.”

It would appear that marketers are fiddling with the Super Bowl while brand building is burning. Jonathan cites – declining brand reputations, consumer declines in advertising trust, declining brand loyalty and persistent complaints from CEOs about marketing spending.

He goes on to quote David Ogilvy who said something similar to what I have believed in for years – good advertising without good brand sell is a wasted effort. In Mr. Baskin’s view, “a beauty pageant isn’t marketing, and it distracts ad makers from their real purpose.”

Back to A-B InBev and their debut of Budweiser Black Crown. The brand has had an interesting evolution supposedly coming from the brew masters who created their own “small batch tribute” beers. Bud execs describe it as an amber lager that is darker than Budweiser and, get this, 6% alcohol by volume versus 5%. Clearly the folks in Bud land continue to try to recapture share-of-gullet lost to spirits. Good for them.

Whether or not the Super Bowl expenditure will be a viable launch vehicle for this new product will depend on the ad itself, not the venue.

I’ll be back with follow up thoughts the week after the game.

Super Bowl Ad Rates
Super Bowl Ad Rates
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