Bowled Over by Super Adverts?

As the furore surrounding this week’s Super Bowl commercials begins to subside, Caroline Harrison reflects on the advertising world’s most important annual ‘event’.

Where would we be without a blog article on advertising this week?  After all, Super Bowl Sunday is, for some people, more about the ads than the game.  According to one recent poll, 21 percent of those who expected to tune in last Sunday said they would watch "exclusively or predominantly for the commercials."  A further 34 percent said they would be as interested in the commercials as in the game itself.

The Super Bowl, the year’s most watched television event with an audience of 90 million viewers, is America’s premier ad showcase.  Not surprisingly, advertising spots are highly sought after.  A record $206 million of advertising revenue was generated by broadcaster NBC this year for its 69 Super Bowl spots.

After a thrilling game in which the Pittsburgh Steelers snatched a late victory over the Arizona Cardinals, I fully expected to be seeing re-run after re-run of the game’s highlights for days afterwards.  Yet, to my surprise, breakfast TV on Monday morning seemed oblivious to the previous day’s sporting achievements, and instead had panels of ‘experts’ analyzing the Super Bowl’s commercials.  Indeed, in the days leading up to the game, before the much-anticipated commercials were even aired, the viewing public was being treated to sneak previews of the adverts on television shows and news broadcasts, and many of the advertisers were using pre-game website efforts to generate anticipatory interest in their commercials.

Advertising Age has very kindly given us a link to all the Super Bowl ads so we can watch and re-watch them at our leisure.

I guess the point is that nowadays, if you fork out to be one of the big Super Bowl advertisers, you’re not just paying for the advertising slot alone. For one thing, any commercial usually forms part of a wider integrated campaign, and is not just a one-off.  In addition to appearing in other media, you are guaranteed to benefit from all the hype and publicity this high-profile position generates; your advert is seen around the world, discussed on TV shows, dissected in newspapers, posted on blogs and discussed in online forums…  All of which must make the outlay – of up to $3 million per 30-second slot – a little easier to swallow.  After all, even if your ad isn’t deemed ‘the best’, they do say that no publicity is bad publicity.

Of course, you would hope that no commercial is deemed a total disaster, as no advertising campaign should ever be launched without thorough pre-testing to check it’s suitable and hits the mark.  Even after launch, post-campaign research should be used to monitor awareness of a campaign and track its effectiveness over time.

The other thing to bear in mind is that everyone has their own opinion on which commercials they do or don’t like; which would inspire them to make a purchase or otherwise.

I came across this online review of all the adverts, which I read with interest.  Personally, Sunday’s most memorable adverts, those which had stood out for making me laugh or smile, were not particularly well received by this blogger.  Yet the debates that are raging just serve to highlight that one man’s meat is another man’s poison; what some people will love, others will hate, or at the very least may be indifferent to.

To some extent this doesn’t matter.  Companies can never satisfy everyone, nor do they try.  Through customer profiling and careful segmentation, they try to identify groups of like-minded individuals who have similar characteristics or needs, and who they can satisfy in a profitable way.  So, for example, if I don’t like a beer commercial, it’s of no particular consequence to the beer manufacturer.  I don’t drink beer, don’t buy beer, and I don’t even influence anyone else’s purchase of beer; I am, therefore, not the brewer’s target market and I was not front of mind when the campaign was conceived.

As time goes by, it will probably become clearer which companies are adjudged to have been the biggest winners and biggest losers of this latest bout of advertising.  But no amount of debating or criticism will deter companies from snapping up advertising spots at next year’s Super Bowl, nor will it stop the general public’s intense anticipation and subsequent examination all over again.  Only 360 more days to go!

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