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Opinion

January 30, 2014

JEFFREY McCALL: Advertisers waste dollars on Super Bowl commercials

Surveys say viewers ID product brand names 14% of time.

(Continued)

Data from the Nielsen media research firm confirm this recall problem. Surveys conducted after the 2013 Super Bowl asked viewers to reflect on the commercials aired. Of the commercials researched, viewers could identify the product’s brand name less than 14 percent of the time. And this level of brand name recognition is worth $4 million per 30 seconds?

The most effective ad from last year’s Super Bowl, as measured by media analytics firm Ace Metrix, was for Budweiser. Budweiser has historically produced memorable Super Bowl ads because the storylines are easy to follow. In addition, the Budweiser logo and the starring Clydesdales are unmistakable identifiers for the product.

Advertisers today want to get as much publicity as possible out of their Super Bowl buys, so they tease out previews of the commercials through the Internet. Fans of Stephen Colbert probably can’t wait to see the Comedy Central comedian stooping to promote pistachios. Colbert should have an easy time topping last year’s Super Bowl pistachio commercial featuring Psy, the Gangnam style flash in the pan. The Psy ad was rated by Ace Metrix as one of the least effective.

Kia car company has Laurence Fishburne to connect his “Matrix” movie fame and character to the automaker. Never mind “The Matrix” was released in 1999, and football fans who aren’t into cyberpunk science fiction won’t get the significance of a red key vs. blue key reference.

Jaguar’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial will push its F-Type R Coupe. The base price of that car is about 70 grand, which eliminates virtually all football viewers from the potential customer pool. Target marketing this is not.

Thus, it appears Madison Avenue has lost its mind when it comes to Super Bowl advertising. The ad agencies are more focused on creative razzmatazz than on moving products off store shelves. These Super Bowl commercials might win production awards that advertising associations like to hand out to each other, but that won’t help the bottom lines for corporations paying too much for 30 seconds with false hopes of increasing sales. And companies that get their ads placed in the fourth quarter of a lopsided game are really wasting their money.

Jeffrey M. McCall is a professor of communication at DePauw University in Greencastle. Contact him at jeffmccall@depauw.edu.

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