Super Bowl Advertising Lessons

By Rob Duboff

As we prepare for our Facebook Live event where we will rate this year’s Super Bowl ads—scheduled for 1pm EST the day after the Super Bowl on February 4th—we reflect on what we’ve learned from previous years’ ads. While Super Bowl ad time is the most expensive—and most seen—ad territory available, these lessons are applicable to any major investment in a marketing campaign.

Lesson 1:  Brands should do their homework.

It is amazing that anyone will invest more than $5M for a 30-second Super Bowl ad spot. However, among the brands that consider it, few are diligent in considering the following:

  • Complex ROI calculations
  • Extensive research and testing
  • Content that conveys a brand message beyond “hey, look at us”

Based on past evidence, it is apparent that many brands advertise more for the thrill of doing it and/or the perks that go along with it, rather than an outcome based on clear evidence that the ad will produce revenue that exceeds the cost. To illustrate this, think about how many INCREMENTAL bags of M&Ms must be sold as a result of a Super Bowl ad to produce PROFITS of over $5 million.

More positively put, unless you have a great idea such as Apple in 1984 or BMW promoting short internet movies in the early 2000s, it is far better to pursue the three steps above rather than forego any of them. Remember, Nationwide and Groupon thought they had great ideas that bombed.

Lesson 2:  The awards for the best ads are not worth much for the brand in the marketplace.

Agencies may win bonuses for ads, but there is scant evidence that those ads deemed best by gimmick Super Bowl polls, such as USA Today’s, or even online clicks actually have higher ROIs than the losers. The marketing game is about converting additional customers and/or boosting purchases from current customers—not merely entertaining people.

Lesson 3:  The best strategy is for real engagement.

Real engagement cannot be measured by advertising (e.g., people voting for which creative execution the brand should use), but with how people actually interact with the brand itself in the real world (e.g., by sharing a personal story about “real beauty” or by sampling a product through a special promotion).

No matter who wins the “big game” this year, one thing is for sure: everyone will be talking about the ads the next day (so will we).  We’ll be hosting our Second Annual Day-after Facebook Live event where we will rate Super Bowl ads using The HawkPartners Ad Scorecard.  We hope you will join us on February 4th at 1pm EST to participate in the discussion. Download your copy of the Ad Scorecard  to rate the ads for yourself and see how your scores stack up against those of our hosts the next day. 

Reach out to Rob Duboff to discuss your ideas for good advertisements.