Super Bowl ads don’t pack same punch in social media era

“Super Bowl advertising has become hugely wasteful in this era of social networks,” says Seethu Seetharaman, marketing professor at Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis.

“A Super Bowl ad is not going to be noticed as much as a catchy e-mail/viral campaign that spreads organically among users,” Seetharaman says. And he questions if advertisers reap a decent return on investment to justify the three million dollar price tag for a 30 second spot.

“As a stand-alone object, a Super Bowl commercial is a pretty risky bet,” explains John Norton, senior lecturer in marketing at Olin. “But it can certainly fit into what advertisers call a firm’s “integrated marketing communications” plan.”

For example, advertisers can use social media in conjunction with traditional forms of advertising. Doing so allows brands to engage and interact with their customers, according to Carol Johanek, adjunct professor of marketing at Olin. Brands should definitely focus on the emerging platforms (smartphones/online) that their target audience segments respond to for information,” she says.

“Cars, TV networks and the movie sectors will be popular in this year’s Super Bowl. Mercedes Benz will be using their Super Bowl spots to not only roll out some new models but spear head a social media campaign in order to begin to attracting a younger demographic over the next few years. Audi’s Inner Circle is using a social media contest integrated with its ads to enhance the brand’s relationship by engaging its customers,” says Johanek.

Pepsi is back in the game

Last year Pepsi withdrew from Super Bowl advertising for the first time since 1987. Professor Seetharaman thinks this was a smart move. “They invested their promotional monies instead on a community outreach program called the “Pepsi Refresh Project” in which they “accept” about 1000 ideas per month from users for community programs focused on health, education, arts and culture etc. Pepsi gives grants to the proposals with the most online votes, donating about $1.3m each month. This kind of spending is not just socially useful but wins Pepsi credible publicity in a way that a Super Bowl advertisement simply cannot.”

Pepsi will bring that positive social media experience to their Super Bowl ads this year according to Carol Johanek. “Several brands, including Pepsi, will be using social media to assist in developing their ads by having the audience segments vote on the ads themselves. Engagement by the consumer allows the individual to feel more a part of the brand and the more a part they feel, the more likely they will be to patronize it.”

Audience expects more from Super Bowl ads

Super Bowl ads are a part of the entertainment that keeps the television audience glued to the broadcast. It’s not your typical game viewership, John Norton explains. “The audience pays attention to the advertising breaks, expecting the fun, the unusual, the creative, or the daring. Advertisers who can deliver on those expectations, and who have the budget to leverage the effects with, for example, follow-on promotion and sales efforts, or with extra retailer support secured in anticipation of their expected Super Bowl advertising expenditure can benefit from advertising there.”