The Smart Money No Longer Flocks to Super Bowl Ads - Here's Why

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This weekend over 100 million viewers will watch the NFL Super Bowl on television, arguably the most highly anticipated day of the year for US advertising and marketing professionals. In the last few years the cost of Super Bowl ads has continued to escalate, and this year leading brands will pay $4 Million for a 30-second commercial during the game.

The high price is driven by a few select brands for which the investment is really worthwhile. For these brands, it’s extremely important for customers to understand that they’re big. For them the value of the Super Bowl ad is, ironically, that it’s so expensive. For them, the Super Bowl is the Ferrari of advertising – 20% of the cost gets them from point A to point B, and 80% enables them to say “I’m a big brand, and I drive a Ferrari”.

But for all other brands, they’d be better off focusing their investment on social engagement and the connected customer, enabling almost as much reach at far less expense. For example, WestJet’s Christmas Miracle has been watched 35 million times and probably cost less than $350,000 to produce and distribute.

These brands also would be better off investing in technology that enables them to close the loop between awareness and the eventual purchase, making their campaign ROI much more measurable. For example: did the customer watch the video? Yes. Did they seek us out in another channel? No? Did they buy? Yes. How long did it take? What were the steps involved? Thanks to big data and a digital world, a smart Chief Marketing Officer can now collect the digital breadcrumbs the buyer leaves while on their journey, and use them to learn and improve future marketing campaigns.

While we will marvel at the artistic genius in Sunday’s ads, we need to recognize that CMOs must ultimately justify that one-time giant spend with results. While every CMO may dream of entering the Pantheon of great commercials like Apple (1984), the one thing that justifies their salaries is improving sales.