Super Bowl Ads – Are They Worth The Money in the DVR Era?

I’m not a sports fan, but I can’t help but be lured to the Superbowl by the promise of a half-time show and the Superbowl of Advertising: those commercials.

Although the halftime show was lame (apologies to the Black-Eyed Peas–sorry guys, I expect better from you), I thought this year’s calvalcade of commercials was decent.  No, they weren’t all winners–Richard Lewis? Are you kidding me?  Didn’t we get enough of him in the late 1980s/early 1990s with that awful Jamie Lee Curtis sitcom?  But, Mr. Lewis aside, I enjoyed the spots.  Darth Vader Kid–the force was with you.  The spot I loved the most was the Ode to Detroit featuring Eminem and a beautiful choir group.  The way that spot was written got me all choked up.  I didn’t just see a commercial, I felt it.  Damn straight it’s the Motor City.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc[/youtube]
The question though for marketing gurus the world over is: in the era of the DVR, is it really worth the money to buy a spot in the Superbowl, even if it’s in a local station break? While I loved many commercials, I have no intention of running out to buy a Passat or Chrysler 200.  I may buy some Tostitoes, but that’s something I do on occasion anyway.  It will be interesting to see if sales figures move in positive directions as a result of those memorable ads, especially to make up for the cost of $3 million per :30 spot. Just think–that Detroit Chrysler ad ended up costing $12 million since it was two minutes in length.  That’s a lot of cars.

One article points out that Pepsi is actually moving away from the big Superbowl ad, investing instead in initiatives like the Pepsi Refresh Project and relying on consumers to spread brand information via social media. Speaking of social media, anyone who is investing in the spot is also using Facebook, Twitter, and company to reinforce their investment.  That’s why you saw The Force Volkswagen ad on all your friends’ Facebook statuses days before the game.

DVRs have certainly changed television commercials.  I don’t believe commercials are a dying art form at all. I just think that, like everything else, they are changing because of the web and social media.  I think it is more of a question of where to run the ads.  Traditional broadcast or cable may become a secondary choice to things like Hulu and YouTube, or even your own organization’s website. At least if you are going to bother with a traditional-style television advertisement, you can be guaranteed the eyeballs during the Superbowl.  There are few other event programs where commercials are as celebrated and critiqued as they are during that once-a-year couch-potato-extravaganza.

I would love to hear other thoughts, so feel free to email me at jhogan@umflint.edu or comment below.

One final thought:

Although I stated I had no intention of running out to buy a Chrysler 200, it is still my fervent hope that the ad did something to change the hearts and minds of people across the country who think of Detroit as a lost American city.  Advertising has the power to do more than just push a product.  It can and is a real art form that can send a powerful message full of meaning and substance.  Chrysler made a smart move by letting Detroit star in its commercial, creating a memorable, meaningful moment that celebrated not just cars, but the people and communities who make them.  They sold me.

Jen Hogan