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Is a Super Bowl Ad Worth the Price Tag?
By: Don McLean
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The Super Bowl. It is a national pastime synonymous with football, cold beer, nachos, and wait…advertising? When the football championship game first aired in 1958, one could not have conceived the network executives planned on this being the case. With over 111 million viewers of the big game today, it seems like a sure bet for advertisers, but is it? 

“According to Nielsen, 51% of people surveyed said they watch the Super Bowl for the commercials.” This is an alarming fact, especially when viewers on any other day may just fast-forward through them via DVR or, if it is live, take a bathroom break. The audience is clearly paying attention to both what happens in the game and what happens during the breaks. To run one of these commercials will cost an average $3.8 million for 2013. If these stats haven not moved you yet, Forbes states that “…last year’s game averaged a CPM of $27… a hit TV show generally has a CPM of $35, if not higher." Why does this matter? It sounds enticing.

Go back to your early days. In school it was taught that it takes around 3.5 times of seeing a message to start recognizing it with the brand. It is all about recall. The Super Bowl may have brought the average down a bit in this case, but does one untargeted ad make up for various highly targeted ads?  General Motors does not think so. Earlier this year before his departure from the largest automaker in the world, CMO Joel Ewanick said, “We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price, we simply can’t justify the expense." GM clearly prefers staying more targeted.

Marketing professor Mike Bernacchi at the University of Detroit Mercy agrees, saying “…inevitably you have to ask how effective it is.”

You have one 30-second spot to persuade someone to remember your product and ultimately purchase it. What do you do? Companies are in a race to see who can go out of the box the farthest. For some companies they hit a home run but for others they tank.

According to Forbes, within the next decade, “Super Bowl ad costs can easily hit the $7 million mark." How else could you spend seven and six zeros to better increase your brand awareness? With the average MSRP of a 2013 Focus at $20,200, Ford went scrappy with a much more interactive campaign and gave away 100 cars to promote brand awareness. Make your commercials count. 

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About the Author
Don McLean, MBA is an account supervisor at Airfoil Group, an independent marketing and public relations firm serving tech companies and innovation-centric brands with offices in Detroit, New York and Silicon Valley. Follow Don on twitter at@mclean_don.  
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