SuperBowl Ad Myths; Debunked

Football fans, and those who love them, will gather around bars, parties and living rooms all over the world Sunday night for Super Bowl 49. The game, in recent years, has become a spectacle that gets attention, tons of attention for the ads, something people normally avoid. During the regular season “the commercial break” signals a different kind of break – bathroom or snacks, but during the Big Game, watchers “shoosh” others to make sure they don’t miss a minute of Madison Avenue’s finest work – the Super Ad. And why not? They’re funny, dramatic and often offer more surprises than the game. So here 5 top Super Bowl Ad Myths; Debunked.

A Super Bowl ad isn’t worth $4 million

Four million dollars may be a lot of money to you, but to a multi-national, Billion-dollar brand, it’s merely the cost of doing business. Conventional wisdom says that advertising is a big waste of money. This myth has been perpetuated by the small business owner who blew $4,000 on an underperforming Val-pak coupon.  Although a single Super Bowl ad blows away most small business ad budgets, a check of the numbers indicates that a :30 Super Bowl spot is a good investment. No matter how you look at the numbers, a Super Bowl ad is a good deal. With record numbers of people, advertisers are still paying under $30 CPM for ads (cost per thousand). By comparison, many Monday and Tuesday primetime network shows garner $35-$40 CPM rates. Factor in the hype, free publicity on network news & comedy shows, millions of web hits and a huge international audience that dwarfs the US audience, and your message could reach an estimated 800 million to 1 Billion people. It’s a bargain.

Funny Ads Work Better

Another myth circulating among Super Bowl ad watchers is that the “funny” ads work better than “serious” ads. Although it’s hard to gauge the direct impact of a Super Bowl ad, the evidence points to the opposite. “Warm & fuzzy” ads from Budweiser with Clydesdales score consistently higher marks and more “buzz” than Bud Light’s more humorous approach. In last year’s game, The Clydesdale ad with the Puppy was mentioned 169,708 times on Facebook, compared to only half as much for it’s Bud Light counterpart (80,421). Recent “serious” Chrysler ads featuring Eminem and Clint Eastwood have been credited with fueling their recent sales growth, with Chrysler reporting a 20% increase in sales in 2014.

Sex Sells

There is an old adage that “sex sells,” but a review a Super Bowl ads in the last decade seems to rebuke that myth. A 1992 Pepsi ad featured Cindy Crawford turned heads, and when the actress re-created it in 2002, but since more recent “sex sells” type ads have flopped. The 2005 Carl’s Jr. ad featuring a scantily clad Paris Hilton eating a spicy burger, writhing half-naked on the hood of a Bentley, got lots of attention, but Carl’s 1st quarter sales couldn’t keep up with the competition, rising a paltry 1.7% and the company killed the product 6 months later, due to “disappointing sales.”

A Super Bowl ad can fix everything

Nope. A Super Bowl Ad, by itself, can’t increase sales or save a dying company. Radio Shack received lots of critical acclaim for it’s 80’s ad it debuted in 2014, but the company teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Pets.com was founded in 1998, went public in 2000 and put a Super Bowl ad out, then folded months later. Circuit City went into the Big Game in 2002 to try to fend off rival Best Buy, but went out of business a few years later.

Athlete Endorsements are Golden

The days of the trusted celebrity athlete as product endorser may be over. We grew up watching Joe DiMaggio pitch Mr. Coffee, but the 3 lowest rated ads last year included sports figures; Subway, H&M and Go Daddy. Athletes appeared in only a few spots last year, whereas animals appeared in many more. There were 63 ads during the Big Game and 16 of them featured animals, in one way or another.

The Super Bowl is audience is male

Marketers have long thought Super Bowl audiences were predominantly male, but Nielsen reports that the numbers of females watching the Super Bowl has grown substantially over the past decade. Males were 64% of the audience in 2002, but that number dropped to 54% last year. As a result, we have seen more gender neutral ads, and a few ads targeted at females exclusively (Calivn Klein & David Beckham in the H&M ads)


Dave Saunders

Chief Idea Officer