Super Bowl: Why $5 Million for 30 Seconds May No Longer Make Sense

In a world with an ever-growing number of touchpoints, does spending $5 million for 30 seconds still make sense?

Back in 2011, a handful of brands began to pre-promote their Super Bowl television spots on digital and social media. It was an unprecedented concept to “build buzz” in the lead up to the game. The groundbreaking tactic received national coverage in the New York Times. Companies such as Best Buy, Coca-Cola, and Mercedes-Benz realized that if they were paying $2.8 million for 30-seconds of TV time – or approximately $100,000 per second – that they needed to maximize return on investment by leveraging platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

As we approach Super Bowl LII, a 30-second spot now costs $5 million, and leveraging digital and social media are obviously part of every coherent campaign. However, the savviest digital marketers understand that a few social media posts can no longer will get the job done alone.  A holistic omni-channel strategy is needed to reach consumers at every conceivable touchpoint including desktop, mobile, tablet, DOOH and OTT, to name a few.

Companies such as Best Buy, Coca-Cola, and Mercedes-Benz realized that if they were paying $2.8 million for 30-seconds of TV time – or approximately $100,000 per second – that they needed to maximize return on investment by leveraging platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

This begs the question, with TV ratings down, cord-cutting up, and all these new channels to connect with consumers, does it still make sense to buy a Super Bowl TV ad? It is a tough question without a one-size-fits-all answer. Much of it depends on budget and target demographics. Some brands may have concerns over declining NFL ratings, national anthem controversy, and others may decide based on their current financial situation.

To examine this issue, let’s look at Wix.com. The DIY website builder ran Super Bowl ads over the last three years. However, it was not just the TV spot that caused their brand awareness to skyrocket.  Last year, Wix.com accumulated 22.6 million digital and social views – more than any other brand in advance of the game for its “Disruptive World” campaign. The combination of TV and digital helped them grow from relative obscurity into a household name.Despite the success of these campaigns, Wix.com announced that it will not run a Super Bowl TV spot this year. Shockingly, their CMO explained that it was not for lack of budget.  The marketing budget had in fact increased, yet they felt they could achieve greater ROI through other channels.

As the CEO of PK4 Media, we’ve run omni-channel advertising campaigns for many Fortune 500 companies and I believe the Wix.com example is a microcosm of the evolution taking place in the advertising industry. I find it fascinating that in 2011 digital Super Bowl advertising was a novelty, by 2015 it was a necessary complement to any TV spot, and today, at least one brand is willing to forgo TV and invest solely in a digital and social strategy.

I am unable to give a blanket answer as to whether companies should invest in a Super Bowl TV spot.  What I can say, with 100% confidence, is that if your support of the TV spot only includes a few posts on Twitter you are leaving huge sums of money on the table. No campaign can be fully maximized if it is not supported by a holistic omni-channel strategy.

As Mary Scott, president at UEG, a sports and entertainment marketing agency, aptly told the New York Times, “Brands eager to get their money’s worth, may spend anywhere from 25 percent of that cost ($5 million TV buy) to the same amount on marketing tied to the ads themselves.”

I completely agree and we are seeing more brands than ever embrace this holistic and creative approach in 2018.  Skittles’ “most exclusive Super Bowl ad ever made” will be shown to just one person, a teenager called Marcos Menendez.  Everyone else can visit Skittles Facebook page to watch Menendez watch the ad.  Kraft will have real-life families, not actors, send in online videos on Sunday that will be cut into a commercial and air in the second half. This is a continuation of their “Family Greatly” campaign which began in December.

While the Super Bowl remains by far the biggest advertising event of the year, the way brands are rolling out their ad campaigns has shifted dramatically over the last decade.  Digital and social went from non-existent, to complementary to – in some cases – the primary tactical method. For Super Bowl LII and over the next decade, the brands that mix creativity with cutting-edge advertising technology that offers a holistic and seamless customer journey will be doing touchdown dances all year long.

Tom Alexander

CEO at PK4 Media
Founder and CEO of the advertising industry’s first Omni-Channel PMP Company. PK4 Media serves video and display ads across an unprecedented eight digital channels: Desktop, Mobile, Tablet, CTV, VOD, In-Mall, In-Theater and Digital-Out-Of-Home.

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