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Super Bowl 50: The (Fair) Price Of Impact





Thought Leadership

I worked in San Francisco for a few days the other week and was amazed to see street closures, insanely disruptive out-of-home (OOH) ads and a ton of work that was already being done to prepare for Super Bowl 50. The game, by the way, will be played nearly 50 miles away in Santa Clara.

Such is the power of the Super Bowl, I guess. Its footprint – geographically, demographically and psychographically – is enormous. And deservedly so: It costs $5 million per TV spot for any would-be latecomer advertisers. At 24 frames per second, that’s almost $7,000 per frame – I bet there are OOH markets where I could buy a billboard for every frame at that rate.

We’re all but guaranteed at least 110 million live viewers for the Super Bowl for a gulp-worthy $45-plus CPM (so much for the “efficiency” argument). Boy, that’s some pressure, isn’t it?

Participation in the Super Bowl is not for the faint-hearted, and running ads here is in many ways an act of faith. But if any of my clients expressed interest, I would totally counsel them to figure out a way to pony up and do it.

Impact Is A Chess Game

Full disclosure: I believe in impact and am inclined to trade for impact at the expense of reach more often than not.

In this instance, however, so much of the “impact” is reach, so in my mind the problem is solved because the Super Bowl gives you both.

Having said that, I don’t subscribe to recklessness, which means that whatever one decides to do here, there’s got to be a strategy that leverages every aspect of what it means to be a Super Bowl advertiser. My gut tells me that the rough goal should be to cut that $45-plus CPM down to an effective or earned CPM of at least half. The implication is that an advertiser would need its earned channels to pile on additional impressions like nobody’s business.

Companies have gotten good at ramping up to their Super Bowl placements. Whether it takes the form of asking people to vote online on which TV spot to use, the use of teaser creative or sneak previewing entire campaigns, the point to remember is that my objective is not the Super Bowl spot itself, it’s what I can squeeze out of the front- and back-end momentum that our moment in the spotlight is likely to generate.

I think it’s smart to invest incrementally in support of this goal – so that $5 million investment could become $7 million to $10 million very easily, but this carries the potential to drive the effective CPM down in a more predictable and controllable way than via earned channels alone.

No Super Bowl-Worthy TV Spot?

Yeah, OK, that could be a problem. This is, after all, mostly a creative showcase. But I’m willing to bet that a TV advertiser of any kind will have at least some workable assets. If Ronco ran a vintage Pocket Fisherman ad during the game, for example, I would order one on the spot.

Or advertisers could make the creative investment, which is probably the prudent thing to do because, as I alluded to before, they’re definitely better off treating their commitment to the TV spot as a multifaceted, multichannel campaign. Realistically, they’re probably looking at a minimum investment of $2 million on this front, which should include the TV spot, digital landing experiences, nonlinear video assets and social components.

And don’t forget the T-shirts for internal teams. (“My company ran a Super Bowl ad and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”) Like I said, every impression counts.

The Last Bastion

Look, to be honest, I don’t know how much longer we (as a nation, as an audience – however you want to describe “we”) will enjoy widely shared experiences. Media opportunities that can truly be described as mass are disappearing.

Sure, practically everyone uses Google, but everyone has a unique individualized experience each time, which is super amazing and very cool, but it’s also a little lonely and is not mass. Aside from the day we land a person on Mars for the first time, the Super Bowl may well be our only positive shared memory.

My ultimate dream for every one of my clients is for their brands to be woven into the social fabric, infused into our subconscious and remembered by all. One TV spot or one campaign isn’t enough to achieve that, but the Super Bowl is a pretty good beachhead for attaining that goal.

And the math isn’t really all that terrible by my reckoning: $9 million to $12 million all-in, with a blended target CPM of $22.50, or 400 million impressions across paid, earned and owned channels.

Doable? I’m willing to try.

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