Super Bowl ads may not be cost effective

By Trevor Allison

The Super Bowl and its commercials have become a significant cultural event in the United States. Many people watch the game for the football, but others watch it more for the spectacle or, as many corporations hope, the advertisements that play during breaks in the action.

“This year I will watch the game mostly out of social obligation,” Austin junior Walt Peterson said. He said feels watching the Super Bowl is something that one is expected to do in American culture. Peterson also said he feels like he has to see the commercials in order to talk about them next week.

Rogers, Ark., senior Emily Hile agreed.

“I watch the Super Bowl for entertainment value and commercials,” Hile said. “At the end of the day, I have no investment in who wins the game.”

She said she sometimes watches commercials again after the game on YouTube and discusses them with her friends.

Despite commercials being the reason many viewers tune in, Dr. Kirk Wakefield, professor of marketing at Baylor, doesn’t think paying for a commercial during the Super Bowl is worth the cost for a company.

“Basically, it isn’t worth it in any case,” Wakefield said. “When you do the math, it doesn’t work out.”

“The math” refers to the cost of reaching viewers, which is measured in dollars per 1,000 viewers. Wakefield said advertising during the Super Bowl costs companies $76 per 1,000 viewers, while the average rate for the rest of the year is $22 per 1,000 viewers.

Even with the increased spending, the spectacle of the Super Bowl brings a boost in exposure. Corey Proffitt, product communication spokesperson for Volkswagen of America, said his company sees the Super Bowl as a valuable interaction with potential customers.

“We view it as a product to get consumers talking about the brand,” Proffitt said of the company’s Super Bowl ad spot. This year, Volkswagen produced a 60-second ad to promote its redesigned 2012 Beetle.

Proffitt said the company recognizes that many viewers have fond memories of the Super Bowl, and Volkswagen sees the event as a chance to remind them of their fond memories of the company as well.

“We feel this is an opportunity to tap into people’s stories with Volkswagen, just like the Super Bowl does,” Proffitt said.

He said Volkswagen, which is advertising during the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year, views the advertising as a successful expenditure, citing positive feedback from social media outlets.

Despite a positive outlook from Volkswagen, Wakefield said the ads aren’t worth the money because people watch the Super Bowl to have fun, not to think about buying products.

He said even the companies that spend the most, such as Coke, Pepsi and Budweiser, and whose products are consumed frequently by the public, still don’t necessarily gain any new customers.

Another factor that makes Super Bowl advertising difficult is the diverse audience, Wakefield said. A significant part of advertising is appealing to a target audience. With more than 160 million viewers, this is difficult to do.

Wakefield gave the example of movie trailers shown during the Super Bowl.

“The majority of people are not in the target market for any given movie. Not everyone cares about that genre,” Wakefield said. “Second, if you are a frequent moviegoer, you’ve already seen it, or you will see it soon.”

The problem, Wakefield said, is that companies are spending millions of dollars to expose viewers to something they either don’t care about or will see anyway.

Hile said she is entertained by the commercials, but doesn’t feel as if they influence her purchases.

“I think that the commercials bring brand awareness, but I’m not sure they really compel me or anyone else to purchase products,” Hile said.

Peterson also said he thinks the commercials may be helpful to some brands but sees their effect as limited. “I might be open to buying a product I see on a commercial,” Peterson said, “but I feel like most of my decisions on products I purchase are already made at this point in my life.”