Super Bowl Wrap: The Ads, Part I

[2 February 2009]

By tjmHolden

In bringing a close to my coverage of the “Super Bowl”, one of America’s major cultural events of the year, I wanted to follow up on the topic that wove in and out of yesterdays live-blogging narrative: the ads. Actually, there will be two entries on this topic, the first of which was: “what did you think?”

What was your opinion of the ads overall, and in particular?: likes, dislikes, things that struck you—if anything. Or was it all just a big come-on, a major waste of time (and money and neural activity)?

For many people the ads are nearly as much an attraction as the game, itself. According to Market Research World:

The data confirms that Super Bowl advertising has enormous holding power. In the 2008 game, the index of commercial viewers to program viewers was right around 100, indicating that people opted to watch the ads instead of switching the channel. The halo extended to pre-game spots as well, but not the post-game as viewers gradually tuned away entirely.

One reason is because Super Bowl ads are a special animal—for viewers, because they are, above all, special for the producer. The buy is more expensive than one for a regular program (18 to 20 times more expensive)—so those bank-rolling it feel it


be special! And it is not only the external environment that ups the cost: the production costs are also higher than those for producing a normal spot. For one, the technical aspects are generally (to invoke Godaddy’s SB spot) ahem . . . “enhanced”; so, too, because most ads in this genre seek to launch an original promotion tack—one that probably departs from the campaign already in place—inefficiencies in production get introduced. Add in the fact that it is a seller’s market (with the costs associated with buying time dramatically escalating over time), and you have a sink-hole for many would-be advertisers. In the past twenty years, according to Market Research World the cost for Super Bowl ads has quadrupled: reaching $2.7 million for a 30-second unit in the 2008 game. And as for yesterday’s game, NBC reportedly sought $3.0 million.

Such costs—coupled with this year’s economic downturn, played havoc with this year’s buys, as indicated by stories like this. There we learn that FedEx, an ad player in 18 of the past 19 Super Bowls, decided to sit this game out. In the words of Steve Pacheco, FedEx ad director:

As a responsible employer of more than 290,000 employees and contractors worldwide, there is a time to justify such an ad spend and a time to step back . . . A Super Bowl ad buy is not where we should put dollars at this time.

Still, that does not discourage all advertisers, seeking to achieve clear goals with their ads, as this piece explains: from a certain shock that might deepen name recognition, to elaborating brand identity, to serving as the foundation for a broader follow-up campaign.

So again, drawing on your memory of yesterday’s sound and light spectacle, what ads did it for you? Shocked, deepened brand identity, possibly might serve as a foundation for future campaigns? What worked, what didn’t? What enticed you? Made you cringe? What raised a chuckle? What induced you to hurl expletives at the screen?

If you want a quick refresher, The Los Angeles Times has posted the ads (I guess in case their readers missed any, and wanted to ensure that they didn’t get left out of the water cooler conversation); The Times also offered their review here (which basically said, no one really missed anything worth talking about around the cooler).

One feature of The Times’ story was a listing of “worsts” (a necessary inclusion if a reporter is offering an objective assessment of the experience); this was, however, a dimension missing from The Detroit Free Press recap here. They kept it positive, adopting a curve-fitting approach (i.e. searching for categories that matched the ads played), coming up with citations for: “Funniest portrayal of workplace despair,” “Grossest portrayal of workplace despair,” “Most creative visual,” “Best sound effect,” “Best special effect,” “Nastiest approach,” “Most noticeable omission” (Detroit-made cars—[The DFP playing to the home audience]), “Best argument that monkeys aren’t always hilarious,” “Best use of a speeding car,” etc.

And unaffiliated bloggers also got into the act, posting clips of ads, as well as their opinions.


So, if they can do it, you can too! And, there are more than enough resources out there to help inform your process.

Now, how about it? Was there any ad—or anything about the Super Bowl commercialization experience—that you especially want to weigh in on?

I’ll give you a few hours to chew on that before I move on to discuss one ad, in particular.



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