Super Bowl commercials have taken on even more outsized economic power in recent years, as audiences become more fragmented across social and digital platforms, and fewer “tent-pole” events throughout the year draw diverse crowds of people to the TV set. This year, Super Bowl advertisers will reportedly spend nearly $5 million per 30-second TV spot, a five-fold increase from a decade ago, and an astronomical 12,000% surge since Super Bowl I in 1967 (when rates were $42,000).
These ads have always been a risky endeavor—more symbolic gesture than tactical sales driver—but can they still be a smart bet for marketers when the surrounding cost and risk factors are so high? Below are a few lessons for advertisers to keep in mind when rolling the dice with one of these high-profile bets, and how the power of research can help avoid making a multi-million-dollar mistake.
CREATIVE GENIUS CAN STILL BENEFIT FROM SMART AUDIENCE TESTING
Many advertising executives have built a career out of one successful Super Bowl commercial. More than any other ad campaign or placement, a Super Bowl spot calls for truly outside-the-box ideas that no customer survey or focus group could uncover on its own. But that doesn’t mean that market research doesn’t still have a powerful role to play in providing a “gut check” for your creative strategy.
Soliciting feedback about your ad campaign from a variety of audiences is a simple yet crucial step towards ensuring its success and minimizing the risk of a PR backlash. These dialogues can reveal potential red flags or opportunities for someone to misinterpret your message, a danger that is heightened during the Super Bowl broadcast when viewership tends to be much more diverse than a typical prime-time TV show.
COMMUNITY INTELLIGENCE REVEALS WHERE THE CONVERSATION CAN GO NEXT
These days, Super Bowl ad campaigns begin weeks before kickoff, and continue long after the winning team has been awarded their trophies. Brands upload teasers of their Super Bowl commercials on YouTube, and the work is often endlessly discussed and debated for weeks after the game. Listening to your target audience can reveal unforeseen opportunities to better engage with them beyond the Super Bowl broadcast, on platforms that are more relevant to their media consumption habits.
Brands can foster these conversations with customers and key stakeholders over social media, focus groups, or within the private sphere of a branded online community. Customer-centric companies ranging from global fashion brand ELLE to innovative retailers like Rent-a-Center have leveraged community intelligence to test and optimize their brand messaging, advertising creative, and distribution strategies.
$5M IS ONLY A FRACTION OF THE TOTAL COST FOR A SUPER BOWL AD
Although the price of Super Bowl ads are greatly publicized each year, fewer people discuss the range of supplementary costs and investments that are required to run a successful campaign. The $5-million price tag to buy and run a Super Bowl spot is often surpassed by what can amount to over $10 million of additional investments in ad creative, PR support, SalesForce initiatives, social and digital paid promotion, and more. Before committing to a Super Bowl campaign, be sure to account for the full cost of these efforts, and consider whether there may be a more cost-effective way to achieve the same goals through digital channels.