Commentary

When Advertising During The Super Bowl Makes Good Business Sense

“We love this spot! Let’s run this during the Super Bowl!” 

Who hasn’t heard this among agencies and marketing teams, pleased with their work and eager to put it on display at the de facto Academy Awards of television advertising?

But this initial excitement usually gives way to skepticism and, ultimately, to dismissal — for the simple reason that companies cannot find a way to justify the cost.

But one actually can make a good case for advertising during the Super Bowl, if due diligence is spent first on answering the “why.” Why does it make business sense to advertise during the Super Bowl?

To help answer that question (among others) we  have invested in business intelligence in addition to traditional media analytics. While many companies see these two as somewhat synonymous — the application of data science and analysis to solving business problems — for our team, business intelligence is as much hypothetical, business-case driven, as it is foundationally analytical. What would happen if we adopted these strategies? Should we invest in X or Y?

Coming to the agency world after spending 14 years in consulting, I was struck by how hungry planners, strategists, and creative teams are for answers and approaches to these kinds of questions. Like any business case, the justification for a Super Bowl ad comes down to strategic timing, expected lift, relatively stable marketing costs on a per-unit basis, and an appropriate assessment and acceptance of risk. Most of the actual work is just finding the data.

So, back in August, one of our clients predictably asked us, “Do you think we should run this ad at the Super Bowl?” Our team concluded that there are at least three conditions that need to be met in order to make a good business case for a Super Bowl ad.

First, the advertiser has to have a marketing need to reach the broadest spectrum of the American audience (170 million viewers / 70% of U.S. households) at the same time. 

Second, it has to be the right strategic moment for the brand, and the brand needs to have something to say — something shareworthy that will make it stand out from the crowd. This could be something new (a new product, benefit, service, or message), or it could be a new way of saying something — an innovative message, a celebrity, or some other attention-grabber that makes sense for the brand at a particular time and place.

And third, the cost analysis must be run to make sure that the per-unit costs (e.g., cost per thousand viewers or cost per acquisition) of a Super Bowl spot would not be all that different from what the advertiser is currently paying. 

The final decision is about risk — usually, the risk that a spot necessarily provocative enough to be in the Super Bowl will generate scandal or criticism instead of attention and action, catastrophically backfiring on the brand.

Here’s how we netted out with our client:

So if the question is asked whether it makes business sense to advertise during the Super Bowl, then the answer is a definitive “yes”, provided the process of building the business case described above is followed. And the case for advertising during the Super Bowl is thus not only about risk assessment and cost analysis, but also about strategy and timing — aspects that make the exercise ideal for a business intelligence role that requires not only good data skills, but also broader and creative insight into business strategy.

2 comments about "When Advertising During The Super Bowl Makes Good Business Sense".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Michael Farmer from Farmer & Company LLC, January 28, 2019 at 9:27 a.m.

    What a timely and relevant article!
    Thank you, Paul. 
    One thinks of Burger King, for example. 
    Its sales per store are about $1.5 million, according to published data. 
    McDonald’s is about $2.5 million per store. 
    Chick-A-Filet is over $4 million per store, and it isn’t even open on Sundays. 
    Clearly, Burger King has some fundamental operational and restaurant-related problems. Cleanliness? Menu? Ambiance? Service?
    The King is probably not a relevant solution. 
    So why all the excitement about BK’s return to Super Bowl advertising after a 13 year absence?
    Beats me.
    A waste of money that might be spent in better ways. 

    Michael Farmer
    Author: Madison Avenue Manslaughter

  2. Michael Farmer from Farmer & Company LLC, January 28, 2019 at 9:27 a.m.

    What a timely and relevant article!
    Thank you, Paul. 
    One thinks of Burger King, for example. 
    Its sales per store are about $1.5 million, according to published data. 
    McDonald’s is about $2.5 million per store. 
    Chick-A-Filet is over $4 million per store, and it isn’t even open on Sundays. 
    Clearly, Burger King has some fundamental operational and restaurant-related problems. Cleanliness? Menu? Ambiance? Service?
    The King is probably not a relevant solution. 
    So why all the excitement about BK’s return to Super Bowl advertising after a 13 year absence?
    Beats me.
    A waste of money that might be spent in better ways. 

    Michael Farmer
    Author: Madison Avenue Manslaughter

Next story loading loading..