Sometimes I see a stunt and think, “Wow, I wish we’d thought of that one first.” Case in point: Vox Media’s PR coup in revealing it would be running a “Super Bowl advertisement” for its news property, The Verge.
Here’s how it happened: FishbowlNY grabbed a screenshot of what appeared to be a placeholder post for a Verge Super Bowl ad, ostensibly pushed live by accident. Buzz developed, naturally, given that a digital publishing company isn’t exactly the kind of brand that one would expect to be paying up for a Super Bowl ad. Vox Media founder Jim Bankoff ended up tweeting the full video, with a brief explanation that the publishing of the placeholder page had been an accident.
Then, Vox Media revealed that it hadbought a Super Bowl ad -- but only for the market of Helena, Mont.
Genius, given that the company would be capitalizing on the zeitgeist of the Super Bowl ad bonanza without actually paying for a national advertisement. Newcastle Brown Ale (with agency Droga5) has really been owning that tactic for two years running now.
But the interesting thing that the Verge “experiment” (if you can call it that) brings to top of mind for me is not just how insane the value of Super Bowl ads is compared to any other ad anywhere -- keep in mind, these are the only ads all year that millions of Americans actively look forward to seeing. What struck me is that there’s an even bigger premium than I would have expected on the price of a national vs. regional ad. According to WSJ CMO, The Verge’s ad in Helena cost a total of $700 to run. The price tag for a national Super Bowl spot? $4.5 million for 30 seconds.
It’s the icing on the cake, so to speak, when an advertiser not only gets in front of engaged consumers -- but so many engaged consumers that the attention itself snowballs into more attention. Call it “meta-attention.” Advertisers during a major live television event now are not just thinking about the placement and the creative and the eyeballs, but also the reactions on social media (mostly Twitter) and the ensuing momentum. They’re also benefiting from the collective knowledge that their ad is something people probably know about because everyone will be talking about it.
You are unlikely to get that effect with Super Bowl ads if only a fraction of the country is seeing them, however rapt the attention is in that market. And that’s why national ads cost as much as they do.
A national Super Bowl ad is a unicorn. It’s running simultaneously across the country, and just about everyone is watching it at that moment -- a rarity in our world full of on-demand content and so many TV shows we can’t possibly see them all.
And that’s why attention is still an extremely difficult game to be in when you advertise on TV -- even when you think you’ve found a terrific bargain on a Super Bowl ad in the Manchester, N.H. market.