Every year, industry publications point out the massive amount of return brands can realize if they shift million-dollar Super Bowl ad buys to digital, or at least run complementary campaigns. It doesn’t take an MBA to realize that brands can buy lots of digital impressions for the price of one 30-second spot. The problem comes with quantifying “return.”
Everyone in digital wants a nice piece of Super Bowl budget, but there’s little to offer except for impressions. For digital to get a piece of the pie, marketers need to be able to show that they got both awareness and engagement, and that they get both with the desired audience. Right now, Super Bowl TV ads only provide awareness across a wide, untargeted swath of consumers. Marketers are failing to understand how programmatic can deliver targeted engagement across digital experiences.
Digital is still waiting for the day when one massive brand decides to invest those millions into a purely digital channel that can enhance its message during the game but also capture audiences before and following the event. Digital’s biggest benefit is that it allows advertisers to leverage a major event like this while only paying for the audience the brand really wants to reach. This is more cost-effective, and it’s more targeted than TV, where many of the millions watching are not the right customers for the brands buying the time.
My uncle may ogle at GoDaddy’s ads, but he’s not registering a domain name anytime soon. Mom can laugh at Budweiser’s ads, but that’s not what she’s drinking next time she sits down at Applebee’s. This is wasted spend, and it’s glaringly obvious. Programmatic gives advertisers the opportunity to effectively create awareness and engagement with the users who are most important to them. That’s why it’s imperative we stop comparing the volume of digital impressions to the reach of a 30-second spot. That’s inconsequential to brands. What matters is the value of those impressions.
The CMO position is a rotating door at many major brands; a position with an expiration date attached. With such limited time, the CMO values the splash, the press, and the status of running a beloved Super Bowl spot. Even now we see many of the spots before the game, with marketers doing press junkets and morning talk shows in the run-up to kickoff. Careers can still be made in 30 seconds of Sunday airtime, but it’s getting harder to stand out.
Below-the-fold remnant will always lack the panache of the big game. Digital will never be that sexy, but that’s not our job. Digital’s job is to demonstrate the ROI of the campaign. CMOs don’t care that their money is better spent on programmatic, but I guarantee you that their CFOs do. If you show any bean counter a positive return on a $4 million investment that correlates to their sales goals, they will gladly write you a check for another $8 million the next year.
The current hype around Super Bowl TV advertising is that it drives awareness, which is good. But the other half of advertising success is engagement and sales, and the current practice of big-hype, big-game advertising misses this completely. In a fragmented media world, the engagement is happening on another screen, during and after the ad.
Reaching these consumers, on their other devices and on other
networks, requires a programmatic approach. Marketers need to develop a strategy to actually take action off the increased traffic coming from the 30-second spot buzz. Ideally, marketers in the future
will focus more on creating immersive campaigns, built on a rich trove of consumer data that will respect their consumer’s media environment, and less on a 30-second TV spot.
After the Super Bowl is over, that’s when the real work begins. Marketers need to investigate their pre-defined KPIs and see what actions consumers took, and how those actions can be used to define the campaign’s effectiveness. Additionally, dive into other metrics. Were new customers discovered? How can the brand continue to engage with its audience? What data validates the existing strategy?