Recent survey data argue more people are interested in Super Bowl ads than the game itself. According to survey findings from Venables Bell & Partners, 78% of US adults “look forward to Super Bowl commercials more than the game.”
Basically the same general revelation came out of another survey from Chicago-based Lab42. There, only 28% of survey respondents said that the game was their primary interest. The remaining 72% were more interested in the ads.
Most Super Bowl advertisers this will pay something like $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime on game day. It’s the last remaining splashy, mass-media opportunity. And to take full advantage, ads are being teased, previewed and supplemented by online video and related social media campaigns — in an effort to maximize the value of the spend.
Some of the ads will be funny. Some will be dumb. A couple may be surprising or moving. Some will be controversial. But almost none of them will “work.” Studies show Super Bowl ads have little or no effect on sales.
Super Bowl ads can very effectively generate awareness of new products or help reposition brands or associate brands with an idea or message. They can also, if carefully coordinated, be supportive of other marketing efforts that might over time affect sales. But there’s a kind of “irrational exuberance” (as former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan used to say) about Super Bowl advertising.
There’s prestige and sex appeal in having your ad air during the Super Bowl. And there’s enormous buzz and discussion thereafter. But most of that doesn’t spill over into the real world and consumer spending.
Even Oreo, which won last year’s “blackout bowl,” didn’t necessarily advance its bottom line through its real-time reactions to events. People love Oreos generally; it’s a “good product.” So its clever social media ads may have reinforced its appeal. By comparison, Bud Light is a dog of a product. No amount of celebrity endorsements or Super Bowl airtime is going to change its underlying, negative sales trajectory.
We love Super Bowl ads — they’re like movie trailers — and will discuss them endlessly. Later, we often remember the ads but can’t remember the product they’re promoting. And with rare exceptions, they have almost no capacity to influence consumer behavior “on the ground.”
Update: Here are the 20 most shared Super Bowl ads of all time. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun. But my guess is that an analysis would show that only one or two of these ads had any quantifiable sales-related impact at all.