By David L. Smith, Mediasmith Founder & CEO

As published February 3, 2015 on LinkedIn

Last week, one of the most popular topics seemed to be what else a company could do with the $4.5MM that a Super Bowl ad buys. It’s easy to show the alternate options and to call the SB buy an extravagance. Yet, there are advertisers who step up every year to higher and higher prices.

So, the question is, why do they do it? And if I wanted to do a SB ad, how could I maximize the impact.?It’s not too early to plan for next year, so read on for the answers.


Unduplicated reach is difficult to attain. In order to do so, you must find a way to attract audience across the spectrum. The Super Bowl does this. It reaches the sports fan. But, like all big event advertising, it reaches the hard to get upscale, lighter viewer. With an SB ad, people will see your spot that might not otherwise be exposed to your brand.

TV remains the best way to introduce a new product or service to the broadest possible audience, both from a reach standpoint and from an efficiency standpoint. It’s that sight, sound and motion thing. Sure, Web video has it too, but not yet in the big, unduplicated reach numbers that TV has.

What not to do

The Super Bowl can be a waste if it is a “one off”. There were advertisers in SB 49 that we had never seen before. And others we had not seen for a long time. The question is, what will they follow it up with? If it’s the start of a campaign, it’s a good investment. If we never see it again, it’s a waste.

How to do it right

It’s not about spots. It’s about campaigns. The effective campaign meets certain reach AND frequency goals. The Super Bowl spot goes a long way in establishing reach. But an advertiser must be willing to follow it up to establish some campaign continuity. The conventional wisdom is that effective frequency is a minimum of three exposures to an individual to effectively communicate your message. The sweet spot is generally regarded as between 3 and 10 frequency against each individual in the target. After 10 exposures (to an individual), you might need to be thinking about a new spot or at least an extension of the spot.

The pre-release of Super Bowl spots is interesting, but does not do much to establish frequency. First of all it depends on earned media (sharing) which is a difficult way to build frequency. Secondly, the frequency you are building is not on any reach base being before the big rated spot in the SB.

To be effective, think about the campaign in the 24 hours after the Super Bowl. And in the week after, then the month after. Establish specific levels of advertising for each of these three periods within TV or at least on cable. Web video is also a great way for an extension post SB.

Other media can be considered here too, both from a frequency and a conversion standpoint. A few years back, AT&T introduced a new product in the Super Bowl, buying 2 or 3 spots. However, since they did not buy the name of the product on Google or other search engines people who wanted to find out more could not. “They didn’t tell the web guys” what they were doing. Don’t forget the search component. And don’t forget social media after the fact. Don’t just run your campaign and your war room before and during the big game. Web display ads, whether they be gifs or rich media can also add to the frequency as well as assist in conversion.

A few years ago, a client asked me if he was crazy to consider buying a Super Bowl spot. My immediate answer was that the crazy part would be not supporting it with at least an equal spend in the following days and weeks. He actually listened. We bought a weeks’ worth of cable TV in the next 24 hours, a number of web site takeovers, and extended it with a 6 week campaign. It was the biggest volume period the brand had ever seen.

In summary, I don’t think Super Bowl advertising is a waste at all. That is, if you are willing to look at it, not as a $4.5MM spend but a $10MM+ spend. Set yourself up for success. Otherwise, it’s all corporate vanity.