The day after the Super Bowl, most people are spending more time discussing Beyoncé’s latest exhibition of vocal magnificence than the Baltimore Ravens’ well-deserved win. Yet the most interesting thing about this year’s Super Bowl has less to do with the stadium-wide New Orleans power shortage and more to do with the entertainment in between all of the actual playing: the Super Bowl advertisements.
By far the most expensive slot of television airtime, a typical 30-second advertisement costs companies about $4 million. While most of the advertisements are ranked and critiqued by the public the next day, very few ask the question that matters most: Do these ads actually have any sort of effect?
Fortunately for the companies that chose to air commercials this year, it appears that they do. Analysts argue that a product or service advertised at the Super Bowl does significantly better than its competitors, if the advertisement is used effectively. The Northwestern University Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review found a correlation between Super Bowl ads and share prices: It appeared that advertisements during the Super Bowl generated more interest in kinds of traffic, drawing attention towards its shares in the market.
Despite these statistics, the true value of a Super Bowl ad is not easy to explore.In an article in Yahoo! Finance, Senior Editor Derek Thompson said that “measuring the effectiveness of advertising is devilishly difficult, because it’s practically impossible to pinpoint the moment that millions of very different people made up their mind to buy something.”
This year, 108.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the sibling coaches of the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens battle it out in the Big Easy. Sunday marked the seventh straight year in which more people watched the Super Bowl than the previous year, indicating that consumer interest is on a steady ascent. Compared to the average 20 million viewers who regularly watch Sunday Night Football, the numbers for the Super Bowl are astonishingly high. Combined with the staggering fact that a simple Google search for “Super Bowl advertisement” mere hours after the event returns over 226 million results, it’s quite obvious to see just how important a short commercial could be.
The most compelling thing about the Super Bowl, however, is the fundamental difference between the Super Bowl and regularly scheduled television programming. With the advent of DVR and TiVo, instruments that allow viewers to skip commercials with ease, consumers are no longer required to sit through commercials in order to watch their favorite television program. The Super Bowl, however, is broadcast live, and sports fans have motivation to watch their favorite teams play in live time, commercials and all. And the reputation of the ads’ quality has an effect too — audiences might even find themselves glued to their seats during commercials, afraid of missing the next viral sensation.
The effect is monumental — and the excellence of the ads reflects that. Companies spend substantially more money on a Super Bowl ad than on a regular one; and newspapers, magazines and online blogs spend most of the Monday after the Super Bowl, not only analyzing each and every advertisement for its creativity, originality and impact, but actually ranking them. For the advertising industry, the attention paid to Super Bowl ads is nothing short of incredible.
So, as the dust settles from the 2013 Super Bowl battle, consumers should think about the amount of business rationale that goes behind a company’s decision to spend $4 million on a single advertisement that, in most cases, airs only once.
Behind the hard work and sweat of the athletes, and the glamour of watching Beyoncé (literally) blow the lights out with her performance, the true meaning of the Super Bowl has more financial significance than we realize. As Thompson says, the Super Bowl is “a national media event where people beg the room to quiet down so they can hear branded messages brought to them by multinational corporations. At $4 million, that’s not a rip-off. It’s a steal.”
For the companies involved, it’s a gold mine while audiences get to be entertained.
Payal Mukerji is a junior majoring in business administration. Her column “Risky Business” runs Tuesdays.