WHY SUPER BOWL ADS ARE A MASSIVE WASTE OF MONEY

Super Bowl 50 marked an important shift in advertising history. I think this year's Big Game was the straw that broke the marketer's back, and slowly but surely the price of a Super Bowl ad will decline. As it should.

We live in a mobile-first, digital-driven world where time is more precious than ever and attention is extremely difficult to earn. That behavior trend should give marketers enough pause in 2017 and beyond when they think about the true value of a Super Bowl ad.

Behemoth brands like Apple, Dove, Ford, GE, McDonald's and Nike sat on the sidelines this year and didn't spend a dime on television advertising during the Big Game. I applaud them. The 40+ companies who spent up to $5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl 50 ad made the wrong move. Let me tell you why.

The Attention Isn't There Anymore

The Super Bowl used to be THE television event that all companies could count on for hundreds of millions of consumers' undivided attention. Years ago, you could have referred to it as The Brand Awareness Bowl. Every company coveted a 30-second spot because they knew lots of eyeballs were glued to the TV as soon as the game cut to commercial break. For some people, the ads were more interesting than the game itself. That just isn't the case anymore.

Think about it. Between our goldfish-like attention span of eight seconds, phones, tablets, laptops, food and drink refills, bathroom trips, conversations, hosting duties, dating apps, checking Facebook and Instagram, sending snaps, tweeting, and texting, who really gave their undivided attention to every ad? Better yet, who paid close enough attention to remember the ad, the brand, and the product that the brand sells? By the time the Coldplay/Beyonce/Bruno Mars halftime extravaganza was over, my crew (Al and Patty Mac) was doing everything but paying close attention to the ads. You know what we definitely weren't doing? Discussing products and/or buying anything.

Don't get me wrong—I fully understand the appeal of Super Bowl ads. I'm a sucker for a good puppy ad or a well-placed celebrity cameo. Most Super Bowl ads check the boxes of creativity and entertainment. But strictly from a business perspective, do we really believe these extremely expensive shots-in-the-dark convert?   

The Real ROI Is Still A Mystery

The 2016 buyer journey is riddled with a variety of online and offline touchpoints, which makes evaluating the success of a Super Bowl ad extremely difficult. A persuasive marketer might be able to convince the CEO that the ad "had something to do with" a spike in sales between February and March, but it's impossible to quantify the real ROI.

Imagine walking into a boardroom, asking for $5 million to spend on one, 30-second spot and then never knowing how that ad performed relative to real business results (aka revenue). No one should ever spend $5 million for a spike in web traffic. That's insanity.

An Alternative Method

Instead of $5 million, give me $100,000 to shoot a high-quality video and build a multi-channel, online campaign filled with all sorts of value-driven content. First, I'll purchase a marketing automation system if the company doesn't have one already so we can track performance and lead activity. I'd upload the well-produced video to a main website, YouTube and Facebook, and deploy ads against it utilizing Facebook dark posts and Instagram ads. If it's a B2B play, I'd create a couple well-designed premium content pieces and promote them via LinkedIn Sponsored Updates. I'd distribute micro content all day long for free using social accounts, including 10-second, behind-the-scenes snaps on Snapchat. On and on and on.

Basically, $100,000 could build a content machine that's purpose is to target specific audiences, create context with new consumers, earn their attention, educate them and convert them. 

By the time the campaign is done, I'll tell you exactly how every piece of content performed, what worked and what didn't, the nitty gritty metrics of each digital ad, what channels drove the most leads, how many new leads came to the site, and how much revenue came in. The best part? I just saved $4.9 million.

This is not to say Super Bowl ads don't work. From a brand awareness and engagement perspective, they probably do. But a savvy businessperson who understands how to effectively market in 2016 shouldn't ever pay $5 million just to gain some awareness.

What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree with my POV, hit me up with your thoughts in the comments below! If you liked this post, do me a favor and click that heart button to the bottom right.

Photo Credit: Santi Villamarin