Should brands ditch the big show and take their ads online?

By now we’ve all seen or heard about the funniest, catchiest and most impactful Super Bowl ads from last Sunday – at least those deemed as such by morning talk show host and our overzealous friends on social media. That, and of course, a million and one memes mocking Pete Carroll’s decision to throw the ball on the Patriots goal line and the oversized shark featured in Katy Perry’s halftime show.

However, the question from this weekend’s game, at least for those of us in the agency and marketing realm, is this: just how effective are those big-dollar TV spots?

Wall Street Journal contributors Jack Marshall, Mike Shields and Suzanne Vranica posted an excellent article outlining potential alternative outlets a brand or agency could utilize when given 4.5 million dollars, the estimated cost for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl.

Below are a few excerpts from the article:

“A budget of $4.5 million would buy around 12 such spots in shows such as the NBC’s “The Blacklist” and CBS’s “Big Bang Theory.”

“According to estimates from ad-buying software company TubeMogul, $4.5 million is enough to have an advertiser’s video ad displayed online around 500 million times over an 18-day period.

“For an advertiser looking to reach a male demographic, for example, the ad buyer said $4.5 million would buy full-page color ads in every issue of Men’s Fitness, Details, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, GQ, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine for a year. That’s a total of approximately 96 full-page print ads.

“…a $4.5 million budget spent through automated ad-buying systems could buy approximately 1.3 billion banner ad impressions on websites featuring arts, entertainment and news content.

“An ad in Snapchat’s ‘Recent Updates’ stream can be purchased for $700,000. Add to that a promoted trending topic on Twitter for around $150,000 and an Instagram video ad for around $200,000, and a brand could buy a significant social media presence for the day for under $2 million.

Read the whole article here.

There are drawbacks to each of these alternatives. For starters, one of the reasons NBC was able to command such a premium is due to the exposure each spot receives outside of the actual airtime during the game.

Super Bowl ads have a captive, group audience. Imagine all of those people huddled around the TV at the Super Bowl party; now think if someone tried to change the channel! For example, The Big Bang Theory and The Black List were the most-DVR’d shows in 2013-14, making those ad buys potentially less-timely or just skipped over entirely by viewers.

As the article points out, there are legitimate cases in which a well-spent $4.5 million dollars through some of these alternative outlets could indeed be a wiser investment than a slot on the big show. You audience might not be as broad as, say, Coke, allowing you to fine-tune your targeting with a less expensive online pre-roll buy.

We owe it to our clients to step back from the traditional school of marketing thought about budgets, and objectively and quantitatively evaluate the best way to allocate the given resources. A well-conceived ad placed during the big game can make sense, but not necessarily for everyone.

John Porter is a strategist for The Prosper Group. Follow him on Twitter @_JohnPorter. 

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