‘Most Super Bowl Ads Suck!’

‘Most Super Bowl Ads Suck!’

Given that arguably no one outside continental USA comprehends the rules, it’s thankful this morning’s Super Bowl action also comes with – we anticipate – some tasty campaigns.

John Bastick
Posted by John Bastick

You may not know who the New England Patriots are or their helmet-headed combatants for today – reigning champs the Seattle Seahawks – are; but rather than decipher the intricacies of an eligible receiver, it’s arguably the famed ads that run throughout you’re all the more interested in.

However, if recent press out of the States is to be believed, the once holy grail of creativity – the much-vaunted Super Bowl advertising – may possibly have had its day.

Some media commentators in the US are now starting to suggest that plugging your product alongside the US’s single biggest sporting event has, surprisingly, become all the more tired. It’s been argued that the current zeitgeist for ‘emotive’ ads over ribald isn’t working. That clients are fast realising there are significantly better ways to get ROI on the massive spend required of a Super Bowl campaign.

As the Patriots whack heads with the Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium this morning (AESDT) there’s an increasing number of commentators lining-up to bemoan the state of the campaigns and question if the Super Bowl’s hype is worth it.

Yet, it could be argued things have been on the nose for a while. In 2012 respected US media commentator Allen St. John famously quipped “most Super Bowl ads suck”. Admittedly, the basis of St. John’s gripe wasn’t discernibly clear, save to say he felt the quality had been slipping as far back as the 80s and the astronomic costs no longer justified the outcome.

Not to tread the well-worn ‘bloody hell, it’s expensive’ path, but a 60-second slot at this year’s game, plus the cost of creative, has been reported at $US9 million-plus. A 2011 Chrysler ad featuring rapper Eminem is said to have cost $US9 million in production costs alone.

That said, it should be noted that over 111 million people watched last year’s game between the Denver Broncos and ultimate winners the Seattle Seahawks. The audience – including a growing Australian fan base – is expected to be bigger again for today’s game. And St. John’s viewpoint may hold merit, particularly when it comes to the famously erratic consumer – the Gen Ys. The New York strategic branding firm Red Peak Branding recently surveyed 150 people aged 18-75 on their views of Super Bowl advertising. A whopping 82 per cent of the Gen Ys surveyed said the ads ranged from “just ok” right through to “plain awful” and “not as good as they used to be”. While in the 36-75 year old age bracket some 75 per cent of those surveyed felt the same.

Red Peak argued that Gen Ys tended to be quite nostalgic for the ads of their youth; hence, the reasons why “not as good as they used to be” polled so well.

Beer brand Budweiser is one company who’s long invested in the Super Bowl hype; however, in 2014 the Wall Street Journal ran a report that found 44 per cent of Americans aged 21-27 had never drunk one of the brewer’s beers.

Despite the sense of gloom, Red Peak reported 63 per cent of Gen Ys were still excited about the Super Bowl and its accompanying ad avalanche. Red Peak Branding’s Megan Hartman said: “Consumers haven’t given up on advertisers, they are just hoping for smarter brands with braver strategies.

“While an ad with uplifting dogs or supermodels kissing nerds might make Millennials smile, it won’t make them loyal. Millennials know brands can try harder. To succeed with Millennials, marketers must raise their own expectations of what a Super Bowl ad can and should achieve,” she said.

And worst news still for the Super Bowl and companies who advertise around it. A recent report on US advertising site Ad Age claimed 80 per cent of Super Bowl ads do nothing to increase a product’s sales. CEO of US research firm Communicus, Jeri Smith, said the problem with Super Bowl ads is they’re geared to entertain, not sell stuff. Smith surmised that too often the ads are all about ‘the brand’ and less about the actual product. Sure, we’re all entertained, but too often the message gets drowned out in the gags.

“The advertisers really dial up the entertainment quotient to pop to the top of the USA Today rankings and such,” Smith said. “But we find the brand association with Super Bowl commercials is much lower than you’d get with a typical buy, just because of the way the creative is structured.”

And if the share market is any measure of success then don’t expect a super Super Bowl campaign to raise your share price. According to research by the firm Eqis Capital the shares of companies with the top-ranked Super Bowl advertisements fell in the first days of trading following their appearance at the big game over the past four years.

Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom for astronomically priced Super Bowl campaigns. As Red Peak Branding’s Megan Hartman noted when you do ‘nail’ a campaign the payback in sales can be significant.

“When done well, traditional advertising can change minds and it can influence Millennials. Look at Dos Equis’s ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ which increased sales by 20 to 30 per since the campaign launched. And judging from the nearly 10 million Google results for ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ meme, it was a viral success with Millennials online as well,” Hartman said.