The Fall – And Rise – Of The Super Bowl Spot
It used to be that on Super Bowl Sunday, we all gathered around our TVs to watch the big game and the even bigger commercials. And we all did it at the same time. It was appointment television for everyone, everywhere. There were no pre-released spots, no YouTube, no Top Ten best commercial list before the game. If you were in advertising or loved pop culture, you probably took your bathroom breaks during the game so you wouldn’t miss the marketing beauty pageant.
And by “Super Bowl commercials,” I’m not referring to the individual ads, but instead, the whole cultural phenomenon. They’ve given up their cultural moment – for a lifetime of eyeballs on the internet. Thanks, Al Gore.
Let’s be honest, Super Bowl commercials have traded in their heat of surprise during the big game for the long tail of the internet. Instead of debuting during the game, everyone releases their spots before the game, sometimes weeks in advance. I hate it. But I get it. This shift allows brands to efficiently reach more than 100 million people (114 million in 2016) on game day, slightly buzzed on beer and guacamole, but also connect to the online crowd before and after the confetti falls – effectively extending a :30 buy to almost forever.
And what’s not to love: If CMOs are spending around $5 million for :30 of air time, they sure as heck would love to have that same spot available a week or two before and forever after the “big game” so that they see some serious ROI on that sucker.
In the Verge article “Who killed the Super Bowl commercial?” Chris Plante posits that once upon a television, the Super Bowl commercial was the one place where brands could show their zaniest, craziest and creative sides and get buzz. But then came YouTube, Facebook and 24/7 GIFs, and all of a sudden, the Super Bowl commercial seemed comparatively tame. Super Bowl spots used to define “out there” marketing. Now, not so much.
So if they aren’t making a splashy debut during the Super Bowl anymore and they aren’t the wackiest content anymore, is the tradeoff for practical marketing ROI a good thing? Uh, yes. Consider these examples.
Bad for one-time cultural moments; good for reach and frequency. Just like the Super Bowl: there are winners and there are losers.