As many of you, I gathered with friends and family to watch the Super Bowl and, of course, the ads. I historically make sure that I plant myself in front of the big screen with my notepad to catch every commercial and to make notes regarding the best and the worst. But, this year, it was different.
This year, I was watching with five others. The group included a doctor, lawyer, two journalists and an artist. From the beginning, the five others were not interested in the ads and wanted to mute the commercials but, respectfully, kept the sound on except for a few mutes. I tried to watch – and listen – to the ads, but the constant chatter among the others made it difficult to pay attention. As a result, I found myself not that interested in the ads. Oh no, what’s happened?
After the Super Bowl, I spoke with Phil Rabin, Capitol Communicator editor, and his reaction was similar. To both of us, something was different. Given that this was the most expensive year for Super Bowl commercials at $6.5 million for 30 seconds, I certainly hope that our experience was an anomaly but my gut is questioning if that is the case. Over the past couple of years, surveys have been pretty consistent in reporting that 20% of viewers watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, 10% for the party and 70% for the game.
So, what was at play this year? One thought it that the Super Bowl just became an excuse for people to get together, especially after being isolated by the coronavirus. If so, the game and the ads became a distant second to the social aspect of people enjoying each other’s company. According to Phil, people, statistically, spent so much time enjoying chicken wings that they had limited time or interest in much else. In fact, deep on the Web, Phil found a projection that 1.42 billion wings would be consumed during the Super Bowl weekend. (This figure 1.42 billion wings is not a typo. Put another way, the chicken population just dropped by 710 million.)
I usually like to report my list of the best and worst but I can’t do it this year without spending extra time looking up the videos post big show but that defeats the purpose because how the group responds has a lot to do with the impressions. However, I did catch Eugene Levy in the Nissan ad (shown in photo above) and I did find that quite entertaining. We also usually report the list of Best and Worst discussed at the annual Beyond Downs gathering hosted by the DC chapter of the American Advertising Federation but this is yet another year of no Beyond Downs due to the pandemic.
Perhaps the fundamental question that should be addressed is what impact does a Super Bowl ad have on ROI. According to one online item, more than 70 ads run during the Super Bowl and, depending on the year, that number could rise to 100. So, advertisers have ads competing against other ads that are competing with the game for time and attention – plus competing against the halftime show that, this year, featured five artists with a combined total of 43 Grammys and 22 Billboard no.1 albums to their names. And, let’s not forget the regular trips to get chicken wings and other food items, plus bathroom breaks and side conversations.
And, let’s also add what has happened to Super Bowl ratings in recent years, which has had its downs and ups. According to one online report: “Last season’s Super Bowl, which saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win against the Kansas City Chiefs, had an estimated 91.6 million viewers in the United States alone. And even though that number can sound like a lot, that game attracted 22.4 million fewer viewers than the most watched Super Bowl in 2015: the Seahawks vs Patriots. The Rams-Bengals encounter by comparison was estimated to bring in a viewing audience of around 117 million, which would make it the most viewed of all time. ”
So, we are left with the question of whether it makes economic sense to advertise during the Superbowl? At the end of the day, do those watching the game talk about the final score, or the ads, or the wings?
We invite your comments. Was your experience similar to ours at Capitol Communicator? And, which ads did you think were the best and the worst at this year’s Super Bowl?
Paul Duning, Publisher, Capitol Communicator