Were the Super Bowl advertisements a Super failure?

Sunday night’s Super Bowl match up was an incredible battle with constant momentum shifts and a nail biting finish.  It will should be remembered as one of the best Super Bowls ever.   It’s a good thing the game was great because the ads were awful.  $206,000,000 worth and most of it wasted.  You would think the clients of these “great” advertising agencies would demand more for their money.  We’re talking $3 million for the media time alone.  This does not account for production and talent costs.  So, what did the advertisers get for their 3 million? In my opinion, not much in terms of ROI or in terms of entertainment for that matter.

What’s the point of advertising again?

Consider this…What one commercial inspired you to take action to either research or buy one of the advertised products.  Notice I said buy.  That is the point of advertising, is it not?  I only remember two ads that followed basic advertising principles.  I’ll get to these ads in a bit, but first I want to explain why most of the Super Bowl ads have become “costs” rather than corporate investments.

“The Super Bowl has become a talent contest for creative agencies”

First off,  a Super Bowl ad is a very risky proposition regardless of the agency/client strategy going in.  Sinking that kind of money into a 30 second spot is highly risky.  The main reason why these ads fail though is because Madison Avenue has turned the Super Bowl into a creative talent contest to see which agency can create the most talked about spot for the forthcoming work week.  Have they forgotten that the primary purpose for these ads (Super Bowl or otherwise) is to create sales or at the very least to build brand preference?

“People don’t buy from clowns.”

I’m trying to remember, was the ad with the Moose head hanging out of the office wall for CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com?  Oh yeah, that one ad with the guys in the office talking to the snow globe/crystal ball was hilarious…which company was that for again?  Even if you remember the company running these ads, what was their message to you?  What was their offer? What was the call to action?  Why should I buy what they are trying to sell?  The provided me no reason why I should buy their product.  When advertisers have to resort to humor for my attention, it tells me there is little to no benefit of me actually using the product. If there is a benefit, please tell me what it is and don’t make me guess.

Advertising great David Ogilvy said it best,

Be well-mannered, but don’t be a clown. People don’t buy from bad-mannered salesmen, and research has shown that they don’t buy from bad-mannered advertisements. It’s easier to sell people with a friendly handshake than by hitting them over the head with a hammer. You should try to charm the consumer into buying your product. This doesn’t mean that your advertisements should be cute or comic. People don’t buy from clowns.”

I remember only 2 ads in which the advertisers were able to pull a real measurable result from their 3+ million investment. By measurable result I do not simply mean a good “recall score”.  To me a real measurable result means the client can precisely tell how many people took action on account of the offer in the advertisement.   Even pointing out the two ads that did accomplish this, I must say that I doubt they will see a profit based on the offers.

“Your ads should include a valuable offer.”

The first ad that comes to mind is Denny’s free “Grandslam Breakfast”  offer.  It made me want to go to Denny’s – at least on Tuesday for the free breakfast.  If I was in charge of creating that ad, I would have  replaced the humorous intro and used more of an emotional appeal.  Maybe something along the lines of “Fresh Start” as we try to rebound out of our hard economic times.  This approach may have created some sense of allegiance to the breakfast chain. Trying to say they have a “serious”  or “grown up” breakfast doesn’t work.  If your menu has pictures on it, it’s hard for me to consider your breakfast “grown up”.

The other ad, which I did not like and found slightly offensive, was for GoDaddy.com.  They put an offer out, although a scummy one, to their apparent demographic and asked the “prospect” to take action by going to their site.  This “ad” is still a very loose example of what I think advertising should be.  I highly doubt the people racing to their computers with hopes of seeing Danica Patrick naked were actually interested in buying a domain name.  The offer is supposed to attract potential customers, not perverts and horny 13 year olds.

In summary, I think the organization that got the most benefit from the Super Bowl was P.E.T.A. They are lucky that their ad did not even run.   Not only did they save $3 million dollars, they actually benefited by their ad being “too saucy” for television. I saw the ad and I can tell you that there is no reason it should have been banned.   However, P.E.T.A. capitalized on the decision because instead of showing a 30 second clip to a half interested audience, they were able to show an extended video to a captivated audience.  The extended video played on the website, although hard to watch, delivers the real message they want you to see and hear.

What was your favorite Super Bowl ad?

I shared my thoughts and feelings and now I am interested to hear yours.  What ads were your favorites and why?  Are there any products you want to buy that you did not before the big game?  And most importantly, did you get your free Grand Slam from Denny’s?