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Super Bowl Advertisers Make Hits Between the Hits

Kellogg marketing experts offer insight into this year’s Super Bowl ad trends

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January 30, 2013 | by Brendan Cosgrove

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens won’t be the only teams competing when Super Bowl XLVII kicks off in New Orleans. Advertising teams from some of the world’s biggest brands also will be engaged in a fierce struggle to win over more than 100 million American television viewers with their “hits between the hits” -- the Super Bowl ads.

For the ninth consecutive year, marketing professors and students from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management will be critiquing those ads for their creativity and effectiveness in their annual Super Bowl Ad Review.

The review’s leaders, Kellogg’s Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing, and Derek Rucker, associate professor of marketing, sat down with Northwestern News to preview this year’s Super Bowl advertising landscape.

What are the trends in advertising for this year’s Super Bowl? Are we seeing more or fewer players? How does this reflect our overall economy?

Super Bowl spots are commanding record-high prices with numbers approaching $4 million for a 30-second spot. The recession was one of the few times that we saw the Super Bowl prices slow down in the cost-per-spot. Record-high spending is a sign that companies are investing in brands. This is a good sign for the economy.

What innovations will we see at this year’s Super Bowl?

We are seeing longer spots this year. Most Super Bowl ads are 30 seconds, but there are at least three spots reported to be a minute or longer. This gives the creative team a lot more landscape to work with but also raises the bar in terms of sustaining the consumers' interest. It will be interesting to see how these spots do.

We will see more focus on social media. PepsiCo is one of the companies leading the way with the “Doritos Crash the Super Bowl” promotion and a spot for Pepsi that will feature photos sent in by ordinary consumers.

Are there any new entrants? Or regulars we won’t see?

This year we will see a number of new entrants:

  • Gildan Activewear (sports apparel)
  • Sodastream (home carbonated beverage maker)
  • Mondelez International (Oreos)
  • Kraft Foods (MiO liquid beverage mix)
  • Procter & Gamble (Tide)
  • Mercedes-Benz (luxury car brand)
  • Lincoln (luxury car brand)

We won’t be seeing CareerBuilder this year. After many years, the company has decided to take a pass. We will all miss seeing those chimps. General Motors is also passing this year. That is a huge change from 2012 when the company was one of the biggest advertisers on the game.

Does the action on the field impact what advertisers can get out of it?

Absolutely! The biggest danger with a blowout is people decide to give up on the game and therefore the programming. Of course, there seems to be a growing contingent of people who seem to be as interested, if not more interested, in the commercials. For such individuals, one can argue that a blowout would leave nothing but the commercials to watch.

Commercials are being posted online immediately after airing, and people are discussing them on Facebook. People want to talk about Super Bowl commercials the day after, which has enhanced the value of a Super Bowl spot.

How do advertisers make the most out of their Super Bowl investment?

The savviest marketers see the Super Bowl as just one part of a broader integrated marketing campaign. To justify the investment, it is critical to leverage PR, social media, promotions and teaser spots to engage people. The two weeks leading up to the game are particularly important; this is the time when people are interested in the ads and eager to talk about the different companies running spots.

The big risk for Super Bowl advertisers is that they will offend people. People scrutinize Super Bowl spots and almost everybody watches the game, so advertisers have to take particular care to run creative spots that are broadly appealing. Polarizing commercials have a role but not on the Super Bowl.

What makes a good Super Bowl ad?

At a minimum, a good Super Bowl spot has to break through and garner consumers' attention. The expectations are so high, and the talk at the water cooler the next day is most likely to be around those that stand out. However, to go from good to great, advertisers won't merely present a creatively entertaining ad but one that also properly brands and positions the product in the heart and mind of the consumer. At Kellogg we focus a lot on the strategy of the execution and evaluating how well that was met.

Why does the Super Bowl remain a great investment for advertisers?

No other event garners the raw number of consumers watching the event --- more than 100 million. Consumers are excited to actually pay attention and watch the ads themselves. People talk about the ads long after the event. When you buy a Super Bowl spot, you are not just paying for 30 seconds during the big game but for all the press and publicity that comes around it.