Because let’s face it, come Monday, Feb. 6, unless you bleed red and navy (how convenient that the Giants and Pats work the same colour scheme), are you more likely going to be talking about the losing team’s defensive line or that one commercial’s offensive line?
According to Rentrak, a media measurement and analytical service, 98.8 per cent of Super Bowl watchers stayed tuned during the ads. While the commercials’ entertainment value (or lack thereof) is appreciated, tweeted, and shared on Facebook, many don’t understand the rigorous process advertisers and ad agencies go through to get an ad to air during the big game.
Although the high price tag is a given — one advertiser shelled out $4 million for one 30-second spot, while the average cost was a modest $3.5 million (the highest average SB 30-second unit price to date) — it takes a lot more than a heavy wallet to make a Super Bowl ad.
We talked to advertising veterans, Super Bowl rookies, ad agencies, and NBC Sports to get the inside scoop on what it takes to make a Super Bowl spot. From pitching creative copy, to credit checks, to picking the appropriate quarter placement, to getting scandalous ads past a network’s standards and practices, here is Business Insider’s guide to everything you need to know about getting an ad into the Super Bowl.
The high price of a Super Bowl ad is hardly a secret. While a 30-second spot cost advertisers an estimated average of $2.2. million in 2001, the price has incrementally increased by 59 per cent over the last decade -- even proving recession proof in 2009. (It was only $1 million 20 years ago).
But the current $3.5 million average only represents the bare bones cost of the 30-second unit. What advertisers actually pay varies based on where the ad runs in the game, whether the marketer has opted for a package deal with pre or post-game coverage, and the amount of units that have been purchased. Many companies buy multiple Super Bowl spots, and Seth Winter, svp of sales and marketing for NBC sports, has announced that viewers can anticipate seeing longer and more story-based commercials rather than a quick, 30-second fart joke.
In fact, according to Kantar Media, Anheuser-Busch, the official beer of the NFL, has spent $239.1 million on the Super Bowl between 2002 and 2011. They were followed by PepsiCo Inc at $174 million and General Motors Corp for $82.9 million.
And that doesn't even factor in the cost of actually conceptualizing and shooting the often big budget commercials, either.
Kantar also found that almost one-third of advertisers put more than 10 per cent of a full year of media budgets into the Super Bowl.
Four million dollars is a lot of money to spend on one ad. We live in an environment that allows viewers to fast-forward through pre-recorded shows or watch TV online -- and skip the ads. But the Super Bowl is one of the rare events in which Americans gather en masse to watch a live television event.
That may make the investment worth it.
'It's the one time when the advertisements become a part of the conversation,' Mark Hunter, Deutsch Los Angeles' chief creative officer, told Business Insider. Deutsch LA was the ad agency behind VW's 2011 ad 'The Force' last year, which has reached almost 50 million YouTube hits.
A Super Bowl spot also gives advertisers the opportunity to show their product to an unprecedented number of viewers. Last year's game broke the record with an incredible 111 million viewers, and Nielsen reported that 119,628,000 people saw Chevrolet's Camaro commercial during the game's close fourth quarter.
'There is no larger audience in the U.S. than there is in the Super Bowl,' Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Super Bowl newbie The Dannon Company, told Business Insider.
Media measurement and analytical services corporation Rentrak found that viewers keep watching ads at a 98.8 per cent rate. Thus, with two out of five Super Bowl watchers are not even football fans, the Super Bowl gives advertisers an incredibly unique opportunity to reach a mass audience and then live on in a social media context.
According to Tanin Blumberg, an account director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Budweiser Super Bowl ad veteran, when companies aren't buying a slot to create buzz around an already existing company, 'there's also an interesting angle there for emerging brands.'
'The Super Bowl has a way of giving a brand a sort of instant credibility,' he continued, 'and that's something not a lot of other channels or venues can offer so quickly.'
Confident in their Oikos Greek yogurt, Dannon told BI that they had a strategy meeting in May to discuss how they could expand the reach of their product. A Super Bowl ad was their answer, even though yogurt isn't generally the food that's being advertised to (or consumed by) Super Bowl watchers.
'I looked back in all the data I could get my hands on,' said Dannon's Neuwirth. 'Of all the brands that have advertised during the Super Bowl, the most nutritious and healthy option were pretzels and baked chips. I'll leave it at that.'
Still Dannon believes that their ad, which will feature John Stamos, is a good fit. Many people watch the Super Bowl for the ads, after all, and based on previous NFL game stats, Dannon would still be reaching its main demographic.
Yogurt is generally purchased by women ages 25-54, and Sunday Night Football has ranked as high as the third most popular prime time show among women ages 18-49.
Even though the Super Bowl airs in February, ad agencies get started on their big game spot months in advance.
'To some degree, it starts when the hangover after the Super Bowl party ends,' Hunter of Deutsch LA told BI. 'Literally.'
Following the instant success of 'The Force' in 2011, VW bought their 2012 spot from NBC Sports in March 2011 and a creative team of about 30 began brainstorming creative copy in the early summer. A go/no-go decision was made during the fall.
Agencies usually don't start shooting, however, until late December or early January.
When it comes to the Super Bowl, time is really of the essence. Barbara Rechterman, chief marketing officer at GoDaddy, told Business Insider about the web hosting company's first time in the Super Bowl in 2005. GoDaddy, now famous for its scandalous ads, didn't decide it wanted to buy a Super Bowl spot until the October before the game. They then shot the ad in January, had to get it edited, and then went through a few rounds with the network's standards and practices department -- having to rush through rewrites and re-edits. (But more on getting past the gauntlet of S&P later).
After a client and agency decide that they want to advertise their product in the Super Bowl, their next step is to approach the network hosting the game. Only a handful of 30-second ad spots were left in September 2011, and all 70 slots were filled by Thanksgiving.
Chris McCloskey, the VP of Communications at NBC Sports, told BI that although the acquisition process is relatively simple for advertisers who have previously advertised during the Super Bowl or during football on the network, new clients have a more rigorous screening process.
'For prospective advertisers with whom we have not done business before we require credit approval and an order to buy prior to Standards and Practices reviewing their creative,' McCloskey said. In other words, after essentially negotiating to buy a spot, advertisers must submit an initial script or creative outline to the network for approval; the ad itself will still need to be cleared by S&P the week prior to the game.
Super Bowl and NBC Sports newcomer Dannon said that they did not have to submit to a credit check or concept clearance, explaining that it would be unnecessary given that they're a part of a well-known, multi-billion dollar company. They will still have to submit their final ad to S&P before the game, however.
Picking the proper placement for an ad can be tricky, but according to an NBC Sports spokesperson, a premium isn't put on the quarter in which the ad airs but rather whether it is positioned at the beginning or the end of the commercial pod. (Viewers tend to use the bathroom or run to the fridge during ad breaks and are less likely to see the mid-pod spots.) Thus the 'A' and 'Z' pods tend to be more desirable and costly.
Still some advertisers have their favourite quarters. Viewers' sobriety might be a selling point for first quarter placement. The game can still be won or lost by either team early on -- some viewers will tune out if the match is lopsided by the second half.
Nielsen's data from the 2011 Super Bowl noted that brand recall was 19 per cent higher for ads placed in the first quarter of the game than in the fourth.
But other advertisers prefer being placed in the second half in case the Bowl turns out to be a nail-biter. 'Games are won and lost in the third quarter,' Hunter of Deutsch LA said.
The fourth quarter is a trickier choice. If the game is a landslide, the chances that people will stop paying attention (and its accompanying ads) are high. But if the game is close, as it was in 2011, viewership during the fourth quarter expands exponentially.
According to Nielsen, all of the most-watched commercials, which included Chevrolet, GoDaddy, and Skecher's Kim Kardashian spot, appeared during the beginning or end of the commercial breaks in the fourth quarter. They all reach between 116 million and 119 million viewers.
According to Goodby's Tanin Blumberg, who worked on various Budweiser Super Bowl spots including the Budweiser 'Be a Donkey' ads, 'most of the time, it's the client coming to agency asking to do a Super Bowl spot.'
The ads can also be made by an in-house creative team or via crowd sourcing -- which has become significantly more popular (and cost-effective for the advertiser). Doritos' 'Crash the Super Bowl' contest, for example, has aspiring filmmakers submit original ads that can win a place during the Super Bowl.
The spot with the most votes wins, creating a massive social media campaign prior to the actual game. Chevy followed suit with a very similar crowd sourcing contest (albeit with a worse prize).
Sometimes, for whatever reason, advertisers realise before the Super Bowl that the ads they've made simply aren't good enough. While the Super Bowl's high ratings can do wonders for a product with a great spot, it can be just as damaging to a product that produces a stinker. (Remember the Groupon debacle of 2011?) Nixing a bad spot before it airs in the game is, therefore, crucial.
If you've already bought the ad slot, your money need not go to waste.
In this situation, clients usually have two options: big companies can replace a failed spot with an ad for another product (like Mars swapping a Snickers ad for one about M&Ms) or they can try to sell their ad space to another advertiser.
According to an NBC Sports spokesperson, an advertiser could potentially get their money back if NBC will tacn sell their slot to another client -- ideally at a higher price.
A Super Bowl advertiser's in-house lawyers or outside counsel will go over the ad prior to sending it off to the network for approval.
'There's no real difference in the process, Super Bowl vs. non Super Bowl,' Goodby's Tanin Blumberg explained to BI. 'Just really making sure you aren't putting your client or agency at risk. People tend to want to push the boundaries more in the Super Bowl, and therefore the networks can sometimes be a bit more stringent.'
Agencies tend to send their scripts to the networks ahead of time to ensure that they aren't crossing any major lines and, thus, avoid re-shooting.
Gary Hailey, who practices advertising and marketing law for the law firm Venable, told BI that he could only anticipate unexpected legal troubles in ads relating to food.
'The FTC has recently been looking at food advertising and marketing aimed at children due to childhood health and obesity,' Hailey said. 'So for food advertising, if there's any hint that it's for kids or teenagers, there might be more awareness and enhanced regulations. But that would be the same for Saturday morning cartoons.'
The week before, the network and the NFL will screen all of the commercials that are set to air during the big game.
GoDaddy -- which prides itself in being sexy, edgy, and an inch away from crossing the line -- has bought a Super Bowl spot every year since 2005 and has had a lot of experience dealing with S&P. 'I think that our biggest lesson has been learning what's acceptable and what's not acceptable,' Rechterman said. 'You learn what their level of edginess is. We like to say that our ads are never worse than what you see on prime time TV, but for the Super Bowl they're particular and have a broader based audience.'
In 2006, ABC rejected GoDaddy's commercials 13 times before approving one.
'I remember one year when the networks wouldn't allow one of the Bud Light spots in the game, so Bud actually released it online as, 'the Super Bowl ad the networks wouldn't let you see,'' Blumberg told BI. 'It was pretty smart … got about 1 million views on YouTube in just a few days.'
In fact, some advertisers make false claims that their ads were 'banned' just so that they can get the free publicity. The most recent example is when the dating site Big and Beautiful claimed that NBC Sports rejected their ad for featuring an plus-sized model. In reality, the site never even sent in an official request to buy a spot.
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