Our Insights

Super Bowl Post-mortem: When Is a Commercial Worth $5 Million?

February 15, 2016

The Super Bowl commercial may be the closest thing to a marketing moonshot.

Even in an age when analytics and ROI are discussed ad nauseam before any green light is given, there are so many unknowns surrounding running an ad when more than 110 million viewers tune in. Who – and how many eyes will the teams draw? Is the game exciting – what about at the moment your ad is running? And what did the competition bring to the table?

Even the instant gratification of rave reviews from pundits and amateur armchair quarterbacks alike will likely fade before you can dig into the real ROI of a $5 million Super Bowl commercial investment. Having worked in this space for years with a great roster of clients, we have some tried and true insights for determining when a Super Bowl commercial, or any media placement, is a sound business decision, and when it’s a miscalculated ego stroke.

  • You’re a household brand. When you’re selling a ubiquitous product, you’re always mugging for the camera. You aspire to be in every refrigerator, pantry and laundry room. Companies such as Heinz and Doritos are simply solidifying their brand name; a broad target was right for them. If they can elevate their message beyond simply reminding consumers they exist, even better. You know what would be weird for them? These companies not having a Super Bowl commercial.
  • Your brand stands for more. What better time to channel positive positivity than during the Super Bowl? Seriously though, in an age when millennials want to know your values, sharing altruistic pursuits on such a grand stage is a good idea. Colgate’s “turn off the faucet” commercial was spot on for the Super Bowl. Anheuser Busch made a similar pitch, as Helen Mirren slammed drinking and driving while drinking and dining, but the execution wasn’t quite as sharp.

Come Monday morning, anyone can second guess a company’s investment in a Super Bowl commercial in front of the broadcast’s second biggest audience ever. Why did Audi feel compelled to pull the trigger on such a mass audience when their luxury brand has such niche appeal? Kia’s appeal to women – 50 percent of the broadcast’s audience – is a different story. No one but the internal brand team really knows the answer to these questions, but Audi and Kia obviously were willing to pay the premium.  As a media team, efficiency and audience targeting are always at the forefront of big media decisions.

If you have questions about the right place to share your message and how to wisely invest your media dollars, we’re here to help.

Lisa Quisenberry