Advertising To TV's Largest Audience Needs To Go Multi-Screen

Advertising spending for America’s most watched TV broadcast event has steadily increased over the past ten years, from $186 million total in-game spend in 2008 to $414 million in game spend this year (down slightly from 2017’s $419 million.) But in a time when even the biggest ad spenders are cutting budgets, we have to ask: are Super Bowl ads really worth the cost?



Super Bowl advertising is as much of an American tradition as the game itself. The brands who come back almost every year with a Super Bowl campaign (Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola) are staples of the viewing experience. The Super Bowl is the one time of year when viewers don’t mute the TV or change the channel during commercials. But it’s not because viewers relationship with advertising is suddenly different for one night. A survey from the National Retail Federation this year found that 78% of viewers see the ads as entertainment, while only 10% said the ads influenced them to buy products.

Only 19% of viewers said that Super Bowl ads make them aware of the advertising brands. Granted, most Super Bowl advertisers are brands that already have excellent brand awareness, so brand lift isn’t exactly what they need from their investment.


In recent years, however, even the viewers’ relationship to TV has changed. eMarketer estimates that about 185 million adults in the United States will regularly use a second screen while watching TV. To put that in perspective, this year’s Super Bowl had about 103 million viewers. While this means that TV advertisers most likely aren’t getting their audience’s undivided attention, it also presents a huge opportunity for multi-channel campaigns.

Many brands are on the right track with supplementing their TV spots with online engagement. Kraft’s 30-second spot this year featured real photos and video posted on social media by fans, which were collected in the days leading up to the Sunday game.

In 2017, Beats by Dre found it could run a successful Super Bowl campaign without buying a TV spot at all. They put together a last-minute social media campaign to capitalize on brand ambassador Tom Brady’s visibility. A series of Youtube videos were created, and multiple social media engagement strategies were lined out for the different possible scenarios as the game unfolded. Unlike a TV spot, this campaign had the advantage of real-time optimization.

However, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with multi-channel Super Bowl campaigns. Amazon’s star-studded “Alexa Lost Her Voice” ad was one of the favorites this year. It was released a few days prior to the SuperBowl on digital platforms and aired a couple of unreleased spots in the campaign during the game. Despite its popularity however, it’s a little disappointing that we didn’t see Amazon promoting any new campaign-related Echo skills. How great would it have been if, after seeing the ad, Echo-owners could actually ask Alexa, “How’s your voice doing?” and hear Alexa respond, “Fine, thanks for asking, it was just a TV ad. But did you see how great the new Echo Spot and Echo Show were? They’d be such a great addition to this household.”

And even if your company doesn’t have the budget to spend on costly TV spots, you can always get a little inventive: there is a nonprofit brewer from Minneapolis, Finnegans, who launched an app that serves you a beer fresh out of your TV via AR. There’s no reason why your small company shouldn’t be raising brand awareness around the Super Bowl.

As you can see, the Super Bowl isn’t just about the TV ads. There is a whole world of possibilities peeking around the corner and a concerted approach to the big weekend of advertising can come off big even for the little ones.

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