“The Giants are at the Patriots’ six yard line, Manning hands off to Bradshaw who punches it in for a touchdown as the Giants take the lead…” Time for a beer and bathroom break, or do the assembled masses remain glued to their seats to be regaled by the much anticipated commercials?
The world’s greatest advertising spectacle, the Super Bowl, is rapidly drawing near. With the prospect of reaching 100 million+ viewers, some 35 to 40 advertisers will line-up to pay on average $3.7 million for a 30 second TV spot… exclusive of production costs.
After all, everyone remembers Apple’s “Sledgehammer” spot, Coca Cola’s “Mean Joe Green” commercial and the ever popular Budweiser “Frogs” execution. Maybe so, but are these and a handful of other examples simply the anomalies from 46 years of Super Bowl advertising? Let’s face it, the Super Bowl is a time to gather with friends and family to enjoy a few libations and perhaps even to watch a little football.
As much as Madison Avenue would like to think that the event has evolved to be as much about the commercials as the game, practical experience might suggest otherwise. Fact check time; Does anyone remember Miller Lite’s “Evil Beaver” spot from the 1998 Super Bowl or the 2nd Story Software “TaxAct” commercial from 2012? Thought so. Just because an advertiser coughs up millions of dollars for a 30 second shot at reaching a fraction of the 100 million+ potential viewers or in creating a pop-culture phenomenon doesn’t mean they are guaranteed that their efforts will succeed.
Legalized gambling. A reference often used in the context of the ever popular state lottery games, is an apt description of Super Bowl advertising. The house, in this case the network, certainly wins and sure a few advertisers (gamblers) will let their annual budgets roll on one high profile execution that may even pay off. If you’re GM with a marketing budget of $4.5 billion or Anheuser-Busch Inbev at $1.5 billion, the risks are minimal. On the other hand, for some of the smaller advertisers such as Master Lock, McIllhenny Co. or Soda Stream who have braved these proverbial waters the potential consequences of failure are substantially greater.
We all recall the Monday at the office water cooler where everyone is re-living the prior evening’s game, the athletic performances, scoring highlights and yes… the commercials. The conversation typically starts out with “did you see the one with…” and frequently ends with everyone with trying to recall the advertiser’s name. To suggest that advertising recall is an unattainable goal would be an overstatement to be sure. However with a viewing environment marked by sensory overload for a sports and entertainment spectacle such as the Super Bowl, breaking through the clutter is damn challenging. Diligence and luck certainly play a role in realizing this objective. In the words of the bard of Avon, William Shakespeare:
“Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered. “
Taking calculated risks is a component of every marketing resource allocation decision, precisely because there are no guarantees and the linear relationship between stimulus and response remains so nebulous. It is for this reason that advertisers should seek to mitigate the risks associated with the performance of their advertising investments on a year-round basis, once resource allocation decisions have been made. Unfortunately, too many organizations are willing to “roll the dice” when it comes to assessing contract compliance or vetting performance when it comes to their agency network and third-party vendor relationships. The irony is that the link between cause and effect is more certain when it comes to contract and performance auditing than it is with any other facet of the advertising investment cycle.
Here’s hoping that you enjoy the 2013 Super Bowl and all of the attendant festivities. But don’t be surprised when your guests or the bar patrons next to you respond to the question of; “What’ll You Have?” with an answer of Pabst Blue Ribbon as they’re being entertained by the spot with the Clydesdales or taking in the Bud Bowl. And when the Super Bowl has come and gone and the buzz surrounding this year’s “Top Spots” has faded into memory, take a moment to reflect on how your organization can take the requisite steps to boost its chances for marketing success by embracing a comprehensive accountability initiative. In the end, you will be glad that you played the odds and didn’t “let it ride.”
Interested in learning more about marketing accountability and how to implement the appropriate controls and transparency? Contact Don Parsons, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation on this topic.