Why do brands advertise during the Super Bowl? The Drum asks Volkswagen and Chobani marketers

Taking out an ad in the Super Bowl is, for most brands, a carefully considered process. But can reaching a potential 110 million viewers really justify investment of up to $4.5m for the media space alone in one 30-second spot?

Indeed, a recent study from Communicus questioned whether there is a legitimate return on a Super Bowl outlay, suggesting that a full 80 per cent of Super Bowl ads do not compel purchases. That’s compared to the average commercial’s 60 per cent chance of failure. Why advertise if people might not buy?

Chobani's Super Bowl 2014 advert

For yoghurt brand Chobani’s recently appointed chief marketing officer, Peter McGuinness, the decision to advertise for the first time during the Super Bowl has been a no brainer. Taking out a spot was simply a way to raise awareness of the brand. “I’ve been in the role for five months, and I made the decision literally the second day in the job,” he explains. “We only have 37 per cent awareness so increasing awareness is a huge opportunity for us and obviously a big traditional vehicle like Super Bowl is a big awareness generator – 110 million people in one shot. You don’t need to over analyse it or over intellectualise it.”

Volkswagen - 'Wings'

Similarly for Volkswagen – a seasoned Super Bowl advertiser, having taken out a spot for the fifth consecutive year – the draw of a TV audience that size is too valuable an opportunity to miss. However, Volkswagen’s marketing manager Jeff Sayen explains that it is the way that Super Bowl advert segments have become events in themselves to viewers that makes it such a unique prospect for advertisers. “There’s very few moments where you have this many people watching a live event at the same time [who] are engaged proactively in searching out and are interested in the advertising,” he says. “That’s certainly not an everyday occurrence. The scale of what the Super Bowl brings is unique, but also the manner in which people are entertained and look forward to it is very different.”He goes on to say that this means advertisers have had to up their game to stand out amongst the noise. “The entertainment value of the spots themselves has inherently grown. It provides a topic for conversation, and now with social media it’s almost instantaneous how people share the moment and the things that they engage with.”So what kind of pressure does that put on a new advertiser like Chobani to get it right?“I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of pressure,” laughs McGuinness, adding, however, that with the advent of social media, it’s no longer a case of putting all of your eggs in one $4m basket. “The Super Bowl used to be a moment and now it’s a couple of weeks. It’s spread out so you kind of have more than one shot,” he says. “There is the emotional aspect of it as being a leader at America’s number one event and then you’re on these polls and all this stuff which is quite lasting. So it does pay for itself.” Undoubtedly Chobani is looking to emulate the kind of success Volkswagen has seen with its past Super Bowl efforts. The auto manufacturer topped a recent poll from Unruly Media which named it the most shared Super Bowl brand of all time having attracted a total of 7.07m shares across Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere for its ads. It also came out on top for its 2011 ad, ‘The Force’ , which was crowned the most shared Super Bowl ad of all time.For its highly anticipated offering this year, Volkswagen worked with Argonaut on a spot that suggested each time one of its cars surpassed 100,000 miles on the road, one of its engineers would sprout angel wings. To support the ad, the engineers took over YouTube for a day and featured in a series of shorter films across the brand’s platforms. “For us it’s really about how we expand into the social space. I think that’s the biggest thing that we were looking to do this year. In the past we’ve certainly dabbled in it, but knowing that people communicate and converse almost in real-time we want that engagement and to be talking to them in their social channels,” adds Sayan. Meanwhile Chobani has taken the bear from its ad and given it its own Facebook profile and hashtag to help drive the conversation. Summing up why he thinks Super Bowl will continue to be a pinnacle event for advertisers, McGuinness says: “As an advertiser who’s been doing this way too long, there is always this tug of war over efficiency, continuity and impact. But what the Super Bowl gives you is sheer impact.”It’s hard to argue with that. The Drum has also spoken to some of the creatives behind this year's major Super Bowl advertising campaigns, including M&Ms, Kia, Volkswagen, Doritos and Unilever brand Axe.More of this year's Super Bowl advertising campaigns and news building up to the event itself can be found in The Drum's Super Bowl section.

World, Volkswagen, Chobani, Super Bowl, Advertising

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