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Marketing Blitz

Kellogg experts weigh in on the Super Bowl advertising trends

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January 29, 2014 | by Brendan Cosgrove

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Social media is making Super Bowl advertising more popular than ever, and marketers are spending a record amount of money to promote their products and brands, both leading up to and during the big game.

That is according to Tim Calkins, a veteran marketer from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

For the 10th year in a row, Calkins and Kellogg students will gather around televisions to evaluate the high-stakes advertising competition that will play out as the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks during Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday.

Calkins, clinical professor of marketing, leads the review along with Derek Rucker, Sandy & Morton Goldman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies in Marketing at Kellogg.

Calkins sat down with Northwestern News to preview the latest in Super Bowl advertising trends.

What are the trends in Super Bowl advertising this year?

It’s another huge year for Super Bowl advertising. There is remarkable demand for the spots, and pricing is at a new record. More and more, the Super Bowl is emerging as a critical marketing platform. This year we’re seeing an incredible amount of activity before the game, and more advertisers are releasing teaser spots. They are trying to get people excited about the ad way before the game actually occurs.

Are we seeing any new advertisers this year? Who aren’t we seeing?

We are seeing a lot of big, established brands advertising on the Super Bowl this year. For example, we have Heinz ketchup and Cheerios both running spots. Historically, we’ve seen a lot from automakers and beverage companies, but not so much from these big, established brands. It should be an interesting year in the yogurt category, because we’re going to have both Dannon and Chobani advertising. Chobani, of course, is a relatively new company, and Dannon is the established player.

One of the advertisers that will not be there this year is E-Trade. E-Trade has run on the game for a number of years featuring the E-Trade baby, which has become rather iconic.

Why are advertisers willing to spend $4 million on a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl is really the only opportunity marketers have to reach a huge portion of the U.S. population at one time. Media has fragmented so much that a particular show just doesn’t have a huge viewership anymore.

Social media also is making the Super Bowl more important. The Super Bowl is a platform to engage people on Facebook and Twitter, and marketers really see the importance of that.

And it is important to note that the record $4 million being spent for 30-second spots is just a portion of the expense. You then have to go out and spend another $1 million or more producing an ad. And now, to generate buzz in advance of the game, you have to spend $1 million or more getting people excited about the ad. For some of these advertisers, it is a $6 million to $10 million investment.

Does the game itself impact advertising success?

Everyone is hoping for an exciting game that really engages people, but people are going to watch the Super Bowl regardless of the game itself. Part of that is because many people watch it to see the advertisements. A tremendous amount of chatter about the ads occurs the day after the game, and people want to be able to participate in the conversation.

What makes a good Super Bowl ad?

It is a huge challenge. You have to be creative and engaging, but at the same time, you have to deliver a message and make sure people know who exactly is advertising. Super Bowl advertisers, for example, can get into trouble by losing track of their brand while focusing on being creative and funny. When people talk about Super Bowl spots, they sometimes remember a spot for being funny but can’t recall the brand. That’s a big problem. If people don’t remember the brand, the ad isn’t going to have a big impact on the business.

Can we glean anything about the overall health of the American economy from the Super Bowl ad climate?

It certainly is an indicator of how things are going in the U.S. economy. A few years back, we had cash-for-gold advertising on the Super Bowl and that was not a good sign. It says there was real concern among advertisers. This year, there’s huge demand, and demand from big companies. That seems to say that companies are feeling optimistic about the future and about the state of the economy.