Big risk, uncertain rewards in Super Bowl ads

Friday, February 5, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 6

History has already been made at this year’s Super Bowl of advertising, thanks to a record price tag of $5 million for a 30-second spot.

It’s a hefty spike from the $4.5 million advertisers ponied up last year, but it didn’t slow CBS from nearly selling all of its big-game ad time by last November.

Given soaring consumer expectations for Super Bowl spots, many brands invest as much as $5 million or more in production costs for a total ad cost reaching upwards of $10 million.

Super Bowl advertising is a huge gamble, with few brands succeeding in sufficiently winning consumers’ hearts and minds.

You can bet advertisers are looking to get the most of every second of airtime by delivering multichannel experiences, via supporting social and digital campaigns, and creating pre- and post-game buzz to extend the life of their investment.

This is no doubt why CBS, in an unprecedented move, will be airing all Super Bowl ads to those watching the game on their computer or tablet.

The strategy isn’t surprising given the growth in live-stream viewership coupled with the 78 percent of viewers who are more excited about the commercials than the game, as reported in USA Today in 2014.

Anticipated ad trends include more pre-game teasers, as well as two-part ads in which viewers choose their favorite ending to be aired later in the game.

Also, look for comedy and heart-warming ads to dominate. Advertisers paid attention to Nationwide’s hefty mistake last year – the depressing “dead child” spot – and should tread lightly.

Follow @RedRoverCompany on Twitter this Sunday for real-time ad analysis during the Super Bowl.

Budweiser is kenneling the puppy theme and bringing back the iconic Clydesdales. Bud Light is planning a politically themed spot featuring Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen.

Other celebrity endorsements include Liam Neeson for LG, Christopher Walken for Kia, Steven Tyler for Skittles and Serena Williams, Harvey Keitel and T-Pain for the BMW Mini.

LG’s spot was produced by Ridley Scott, whose last Super Bowl contribution was Apple’s legendary “1984” ad – introducing Macintosh computers to the world. Expectations are high.

Butterfinger is returning with a skydiving stunt streamed on Periscope, in addition to pledging to cover $50,000 in excessive player celebration fines.

Snickers will give us another “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.”

Look for Taco Bell to unveil a new product, which is receiving pre-game hype via a heavily – and comically – redacted press release.

Doritos will return for its final year of the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest featuring a consumer-produced spot, which will feature crafty dogs, an expectant mother’s ultrasound that goes disturbingly haywire or Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) winning at online dating.

Keep in mind that ad popularity often doesn’t equate to sales. Budweiser’s well-known lost puppy spot from last year was a viewer favorite, but didn’t drive sales.

Lori Turner-Wilson, CEO and founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at