Spend Your Dollars on Digital Not a Super Bowl Spot

Feb 06, 2015

Article ImageIf you were one of the record 114.4 million viewers who tuned in to the Super Bowl earlier this month, you were likely inundated with ads, each of which cost a cool $4.5 million. But while you may have chuckled at spots like Esurance's featuring Lindsey Lohan poking fun at her DUI-checkered reputation or Budweiser's lost puppy tug-on-the-heartstrings pitch, ask yourself: How motivated were you to act on those ads and purchase these products/services, and, if you were that company, could your ad dollars have been better spent in other channels, including digital?

Results of a recent consumer poll by Genesis Media reveal that 90% of respondents aren't likely to buy something they saw in a Super Bowl ad, and 75% indicate they don't recall many Super Bowl spots from last year. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that, currently, about 1 in 3 consumers are probably browsing the web via their tablet/smartphone during the big game, the survey shows. Thirty-five percent of those polled say they prefer online ads to TV commercials, and 32% are more likely to watch an online commercial if it's relevant to them.

Marco Hansell, CEO of Speakr, calculated that an average Super Bowl spot actually costs roughly $6 million ($4.5 million for the 30-seconds of airtime and $1.5 million for production); based on this metric, key brands featured in Super Bowl commercials paid roughly $1,259 per brand mention on Twitter, on average.

"Using Twitter certainly doesn't capture 100% of all the commercials' social engagements. But to put that in perspective, had they bought media from Twitter itself, or ran comparable influencer-driven programs with Twitter influencers distributing their content, they could have paid as low as $1 per mention," says Hansell. "This could have made a digital marketing buy as much as 1,259 times more efficient at driving conversation than a Super Bowl commercial."

Put another way, for the same price as a half-minute Super Bowl ad, brands could buy 6.82 million search clicks ($0.66 each) or 2.6 billion paid social media impressions ($1.76 per thousand), according to Kelly Wrather, senior manager of Content and Media for Kenshoo.

Or, as Bryce Liggins, senior marketing strategist at Brolik, suggests, instead of purchasing one Super Bowl spot, that money could fund an 11-day YouTube homepage takeover, 23 days of a Twitter trending topic, or 225 sponsored articles on BuzzFeed.

"Digital marketing is more measurable, predictable, targeted and cost effective than traditional advertising when done right," says Hansell. "Traditional advertising is a shotgun blast that hits the most general demographics and psychographics, but is unable to target down to the user or sub-group level."

Jason Morse, vice president of Mobile Products for Criteo, agrees. "Digital makes the most sense right now because it allows marketers to target individuals very precisely and to actually determine how ads impact purchase behavior. TV ads have a great deal of value when it comes to raising brand awareness, but the technology isn't there yet that allows the one-to-one targeting that digital has," says Morse.

Some brands are, apparently, getting the message. For instance, following three straight years of running major spots during the pigskin championship, Best Buy took a breather in 2015 and is reportedly shifting its emphasis from traditional to digital media and employing a more focused and personalized marketing approach.

To use digital successfully, however, requires careful planning.

"Marketers must set clear goals up front and develop reliable forecasts to help guide spending decisions and gain an understanding of predicted return on investment for maximum effectiveness," says Wrather. "Channels like search and social have dynamic landscapes that require marketers to be diligent and agile to generate optimal results."

Diaz Nesamoney, CEO/founder of Jivox, recommends the following tips to maximize your digital ad dollars:

  • Say goodbye to a one-size-fits-all ad strategy. "Understand your audience and whom you want to target," Nesamoney says.
  • Create the right message for each audience, and message by demographic, age groups and location.
  • Deliver rich content in real time. Case in point: Starbucks' ability to serve you an ad for an iced coffee if it's warm outside or its latest latte if it's cold outdoors, all based on current weather data.
  • Optimize your ads for mobile using HTML 5, as mobile could be up to 40% of your traffic or more.
  • Measure, refine and test.

Lastly, don't be too quick to completely rule out a future Super Bowl ad as a cost-effective marketing tool under the right circumstances.

"The Super Bowl may be the most expensive advertising opportunity a marketer can purchase," Liggins says, "but in terms of reach and CPM, it's actually one of the cheapest opportunities available if the target audience is the general American population.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)