Worth the money? Most fans have forgotten your Superbowl ad already

By Noel Young | Correspondent

February 4, 2014 | 5 min read

So just how worthwhile is that massive spend on your Superbowl commercial. Ad rates on Sunday averaged $4 million per 30 seconds,not including production. Total spend for commercials during the game approached $300 million.

But today Bloomberg highlights a problem: Most of those commercials have already been forgotten.

Half-time show - but who days later remembers the ads?

A survey of audience respondents, for Bloomberg Businessweek by marketing-research firm Db5, suggests they remembered less than 10 percent of Sunday’s commercials.

Db5 surveyed 504 people who watched the game in its entirety. 
Asked to recall as many companies as possible that had ads during the big game, the average viewer in the survey could name only 5.4 brands. With more than 50 companies buying ads. That that means less than 10 percent were recalled.

The top winners were Budweiser ), Doritos, Coca-Cola , PepsiCo , and GoDaddy—the only brands with viewer recall rates of more than 25 percent.

Just 12 companies saw more than 10 percent recollection rates; the vast majority saw less than 10 percent:

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Even when viewers were given a sample list of advertisers and asked whether they remembered seeing an ad for each company, only 49 percent of those ads were recalled on average:

Daniel Goldstein, Db5’s chief strategy officer, is a former ad executive who has worked on several major Super Bowl campaigns (Pepsi, Doritos, Visa ) He said everybody is trying to copy Apple’s (AAPL) “1984” one-hit-wonder approach.

“Apple was the first to prove you could air a commercial only one time, during the Super Bowl, and have it bring you a ton of follow-up attention, praise, and sales,” Goldstein says.

Since then, that phenomenon has created a monster. Talking animals, talking babies, talking animal babies, big celebrities, bikinis, big-name Hollywood directors—the list of gimmicks is endless. “The ad inventory is much bigger than human brain capacity, Goldstein says. Most of the audience can’t keep up with all the tricks, and almost all the ads are quickly forgotten.

He said the most-remembered commercials came from companies who buy Super Bowl ads on an annual basis, such as Budweiser, Doritos, Coke, Pepsi, and GoDaddy.

Ads that were seen online in advance did not affect audience recall.

The famous USA Today poll ranking best ads (Bud’s puppy came first) does have a real effect on the industry. “Heads roll based on this report,” says Goldstein. “Agencies and creatives feel significant heat if their ad does not perform well.”

But he says he’s still amazed that companies would make such personnel decisions based on a real-time assessment of how funny the ad seems in a single moment. "There is little patience for evaluation of how the ad performs a few days later," he said.

The mathematical question for companies is, says Bloomberg: Is 10 percent recall among 100 million people worth $4 million?

With the increase of media fragmentation, there are so few opportunities to reach so many viewers at once. Goldstein says that this is not a knock against the Super Bowl as a platform for advertisers, but rather that advertisers should not waste such a big opportunity, for which they paid big bucks. The one trend that does seem to work is consistently showing up year after year, making the money a worthwhile investment in the long run. If companies want to go big, they should be going big every year.


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