The Super Bowl has always been one of the biggest, if not the single biggest, stage for television advertising in the world. Frequently the most watched television broadcast of the year, the Super Bowl provides advertisers the chance to reach unprecedented numbers of (potential) consumers. Each of the last two Super Bowls broke the record for the most watched television broadcast of all time. Last year, a whopping audience of over 111 million households tuned in.
What are companies willing to give up for the opportunity to catch the attention of so many people? In 1967, during Super Bowl I, a one-minute commercial cost advertisers $75,000 on NBC and $85,000 on CBS. (Both networks broadcasted the game that year.) Compensating for inflation rates, that equates to about $505,000 and $572,000 today, respectively. This year, the answer is about $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, up near $500,000 from last year. This amounts to over $116,000 per second. Some advertisers were even said to pay as much as $4 million for ad space during this year’s game, which will air on NBC. Despite the hefty price tag, all 70 available spots were filled by Thanksgiving, over two months before the big game.
More has changed since Super Bowl I, not just the price of commercials. The first “high-profile” Super Bowl ad didn’t air until 1973, during Super Bowl VII. The commercial, for Noxema Shaving Cream, featured Farrah Fawcett and Joe Namath and can be seen here. Budweiser’s famous Clydesdale horses, which now appear in multiple commercials per year, didn’t show up in a Super Bowl commercial until Super Bowl XX in 1986. The commercial can be seen here.
Some of the more memorable and most liked Super Bowl commercials over the years include Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe” Greene commercial from 1979, McDonald’s “Nothing but Net” ad featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird from 1993, and Apple’s “1984” commercial from 1984. Not all Super Bowl commercials as successes, however. Take this Groupon ad from last year’s Super Bowl, for example; mocking Tibet’s struggles for humor is definitely not the best marketing strategy.
So who will be advertising during this year’s Super Bowl, and what should we expect? The usually suspects are back, no surprise there. Volkswagen, Toyota, Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, and GoDaddy.com all purchased ad space. New comers to the game include Dannon Yogurt, the History Channel and Century 21.
Also back is Doritos, again with its “Crash the Super Bowl” commercial contest. Doritos received over 6,000 submissions for the contest, in which fans of the tasty snack were advised to create their own 30-second ad. Doritos has announced the five finalists, which can be viewed here. The winner, now chosen by fan vote, will be aired during the game on February 5.
While most companies have been fairly quiet regarding the content of their ads, a few have given fans hints as to what to expect. Sketchers will be airing a commercial said to feature greyhound racing and Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban. After the wildly popular Star Wars themed commercial from last year’s Super Bowl, Volkswagen is back with yet another cute twist the Sci-fi series. A teaser of “The Bark Side” can be seen here, while “The Force,” last year’s spot, can be viewed here, for those that forgot. General Motors, in an attempt to increase advertising time, will reportedly be placing their vehicles in other companies’ advertisements.
In general, Super Bowl viewers can expect “longer and more story-based…ads as opposed to quick 30-second spots,” as Ad Age reported. Consumers today are bombarded with so many short-length advertisements—from Internet web banners to mobile app pop-ups. Marketers believe that most consumers will welcome a return to the days when TV ads told stories and featured characters. “Humans prefer storytelling to just telling,” said David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer of Omnicom’s BBDO North America. While 30-second commercials can still be extremely effective, longer ads may simply be harder to forget than shorter spots. With the opportunity to speak to 111 million people, advertisers want to be memorable. Quick, stupid jokes don’t sell. Engaging, funny, and even emotional story lines sell. “I like a good joke as much as the next person, but that just doesn’t seem worthy of an audience of 111 million,” said Matt MacDonald, executive creative director at WPP’s JWT, New York. “If you’re going to speak to 111 million people, do you really want to tell a fart joke?”
In the best, companies with the highest rated Super Bowl commercials have consistently seen an increase in sales and in stock prices following the big game. The benefit of advertising during the Super Bowl is clear. The question is, who will have the best commercial this year? For that, we will just have to wait until February 5.