Super Bowl Sunday is upon. This year the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will be going head to head to compete for the world championship, and just like every other year, everyone is talking about the ads. Super Bowl ads are unlike any other ads. They tend to be highly stylized and sometimes even story based. They range from extremely clever to quite absurd. From rather tame to offensively sexist. Most people can agree on one thing though: The ads, as a whole, are highly entertaining.
But those ads come at a price: $4 million for just 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad space, and the big question is, "Is that price tag worth it?" That is a lot of money to make up. The current mindset is that nearly 100 million people will be glued to their TVs to watch the big game and making a memorable should increase brand awareness and thus increase sales. However, a study released by Communicus, a research firm, suggests that companies are just throwing away their money.
The study, conducted in 2012 and 2013, shows that 80% of Super Bowl ads do not increase purchases nor purchase intent. Communicus interviewed over 1,000 consumers who watched the game and saw the ads, both shortly after being exposed to the ads, and a few months later. They questioned them about brand awareness, increase in product purchases, and intent to buy products. With more expensive products with larger purchase cycles, such as automobiles, Communicus polled on whether or not the consumer investigated product or intended to investigate the product in the future. And the results were clear: Super Bowl ads are not effective at increasing brand awareness or sales.
Communicus CEO, Jeri Smith, believes are the quite a few factors that contribute to this. She says that because Super Bowl ads don't tend to run regularly, "we find that one ad exposure often isn't enough to make anything happen." She goes on to list the other possible factors, "The advertisers really dial up the entertainment quotient to pop to the top of the USA Today rankings and such. 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."
So, it seems that all the money might be going to waste. The entertainment value of the ads is distracting the consumer from the very product that the ad is trying to promote. But at least they offer some back-up entertainment if turns out to be boring.