Super Bowl advertising: What really works?
Once a year almost the entire U.S. population sits down to watch the same program, the Super Bowl. But they are also watching scores of brand new commercials. The commercials they are watching are produced by the best and the brightest in the business using immense amounts of money.
At a record average of $2.2 million dollars per 30-second spot, 25 percent more than 1999 commercial spots, each commercial is very special or at least should be.( ) Research shows that Super bowl commercials are recalled at more than double the rate of commercials run during "normal" prime time programming. ( ) And with 58 commercials scheduled, it's important to be special, creative, and original. It would be a colossal waste of money, after all, if viewers turned sponsors' shill time into opportunities for refrigerator runs and bathroom breaks.
The Superbowl ads cost $165 million dollars to make and then display. ( ) ABC estimated 130,745,000 people watched the game, making it the fifth-biggest audience for any TV telecast.
1999's Super bowl game, broadcast by Fox, was watched by 127.5 million. ( )
Commercials aired during the Super Bowl can generate almost as much attention as the football itself. If the game fails to be comparative early on, there can be significant fall off in viewers. Advertisers whose commercials air in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game can take as much of beating as the losing team. The reverse also can be true, however. If the game is close, no one will be going anywhere and more people will view the commercials.
Purpose for the study.
The purpose of this study is to determine whether or not it is financially feasible for Super Bowl advertisers to pay high cost commercials spots shown during the prime time.
The Super Bowl telecast typically attracts the biggest TV audience of the year and it has become a showcase for advertising as well, allowing the network that carries it to charge seemingly endlessly escalating prices. To millions of people, half the fun of watching the Super Bowl is the commercials. But do people really pay attention to what is advertised or do they just watch the commercials to find out if they are funny? The study will focus on audience's retention, and advertising effectiveness.
This study will be a valuable tool for companies that wish to advertise during future Super bowl events. Advertising companies can utilize this study to evaluate the effectiveness upon the audience.
People can forget advertising very rapidly. So we will wait a week or two before checking to see if commercials are still having a measurable effect on them. When we them we want to use something that gets through to virtually everybody, everywhere, on the first try. With today's busy lifestyles, voice mail and answering machines, the telephone will not be the method of choice. We will do this type of ad tracking by reaching all types of people everywhere, and we wanted the number who decline to participate to be as small as possible.
We will accomplish all these objectives by mailing questionnaires to a nationwide sample drawn from all households for which an address is available from either an auto registration or a telephone listing, six days after the Super Bowl.
First: How many noticed the commercials?
Recognition provides the best measure of intrusiveness because it is the most accurate, complete and reliable measure of the number that noticed the commercial. It separates the people who noticed a commercial from those who ignored it, or were never exposed to it, so we can see if it had any effect on them. It shows if the communication process had a chance to start. We will also look at a key measure of the information communicated by the commercials. How many remembered who they were for? Some commercials for jeans and credit cards did an excellent job getting noticed but not in getting the name across.
Second: How many were affected by the commercials they noticed?
The previous measures only show if the commercial had a chance to affect people. To find out if it actually did, two types of measures will be used -- likability and diagnostics. However, if people like a commercial but can't remember who it was for, it can't have an effect on sales. So, we combine the two in our second basic measure of advertising's impact: the percent of recognizers that knew who it was for and liked it.
Third: What gives the most bang per buck?
How do these results compare with the number reached and affected by the average commercial aired on the networks during prime time? On an overall basis, 44 percent of the Super Bowl commercials reached and affected more people than the average prime-time network commercial, after allowing for differences in expenditures. So even though the overall split is close to 50/50, prime network time is a slightly better buy. But the odds change dramatically when you separate Super Bowl commercials into those that were only aired on the Super Bowl and those that received a lot of additional airings. That turns out to be one of the main differences reflected in the two sets of top commercials listed previously. The first set with the top recognition scores all had a lot of additional exposure. The amount spent to air a commercial has its biggest effect on recognition. It accounts for much less of the variation found in the impact advertising has on those who notice it.
Airing a commercial on the Super Bowl delivers the largest possible number of first-time exposures. Spending the same amount on any other combination of programs is almost certain to deliver a substantial number of people who are seeing the commercial for the second time or the third time, etc.
As expected, the Super Bowl proves most cost efficient in reaching men and sports fans. But it is also more efficient in reaching college graduates, professionals and executives, skilled blue-collar workers and those under 30 than it is in reaching their opposite counterparts.
Fourth: What approaches worked best?
The mood was far more important than the message, particularly the humor, uniqueness and the pace. Their messages were not seen as being nearly as persuasive, credible or clear as in the average prime-time network commercial. Yet these were very successful commercials, as shown by the above-average impact on purchasing interest.
Advertising tracking. Once commercials are aired, the only way to know if the advertising is working is tracking research. It's the ultimate acid test of advertising effectiveness.
The tracking questionnaire
A well-designed advertising tracking questionnaire will be developed including the following essential measurements:
-- Unaided and aided brand awareness. The creation and maintenance of brand awareness is one of the most fundamental (and most valuable) goals of advertising. Advertising can be effective if it does nothing more than create brand awareness.
-- Advertising message recall. What messages and ideas from the advertising do consumers remember? Do the remembered messages correspond to the advertising messages that the advertising was intended to communicate? To ask consumers who are aware of the advertising whether the advertising communicated each point. Advertising message recall is measured by an open-ended question, to which respondents give unaided, spontaneous answers. This question helps determine if the intended messages are getting through to consumers. Advertising message recall also provides an indication of consumer memory distortion and learning effects over time. That is, once a commercial starts running, consumers do not remember everything in it equally. Some elements stick in the memories of consumers, and other elements fade away. Knowing the elements that have the highest memory value is of great benefit in improving future creative executions.
-- Demographics. Key demographics such as geography, age, sex, education and income should always be included. These variables are extremely valuable in analyzing tracking survey results and in defining the optimal target market for a brand.
What other event, and what other medium besides network television could reach 100+ million men, women and children simultaneously and hold their collective attention for four
hours? So, despite the rapid emergence of the Internet as an advertising medium and ever-declining primetime ratings, network television is still the king of all media, at least for event broadcasts.
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