Are Super Bowl ads worth the cost?

Advertisements that aired during Super Bowl 47 cost a mind-boggling average of $4 million per 30 seconds. If you estimate that 100 million people watched the game, that’s about $0.04 an eyeball. Do advertisers consider it money well spent?

First of all, I think there was something close to 60 commercials that aired last night. That is a LOT of clutter to break through, and while it’s no secret some people watch the game just for the ads, the ones that stand out would still need to be funny, relevant, and compelling. Instead, we mostly got disgusting (Go Daddy), confusing (Calvin Klein) and WTF (Audi).

Before the digital world and social media came along, ads were simpler. They actually focused on product features – like this ad from 1997 that ran during the big game:

Brands had far fewer options to engage with their consumers. There were no Facebook likes or Pinterest pages. Instagram and Twitter were things Al Gore had yet to invent, so an advertiser’s options to reach that many people at once were somewhat limited. Running an ad during the Super Bowl was a no-brainer.

But now, with how powerful social media is (see: Applebees, what not to do), brands have tons of options to spend that $4 million on what would potentially have a longer lasting effect with a greater return on investment.

Digiday broke down how else that $4 million could be spent:

  • A portal roadblock every day for at least a week (Yahoo!, AOL, etc)
  • 100MM video ad impressions on Hulu
  • Twitter’s Promoted Trending Topic every day for a month

While those are just a few examples, Go Daddy (sort of) gave us the best of both worlds. By creating a bile-inducing ad of Bar Refaeli making out with that nerdy dude to drive home the point of smart and sexy, they also generated what will probably amount to millions of free PR when we all collectively dry heaved our disgust onto Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, MySpace and Friendster – OK, maybe not the last two..

More often than not, brands are finding that there is real value in creating a social media stir – whether it's Jell-O offering free pudding to depressed 49ers fans or the numerous brands that took to Twitter in real time to take advantage of the black out, creating a buzz that leads to a trending topic on Twitter is probably worth far more than $4 million. In Super Bowl 47's instances, numerous brands created enormous buzz all without spending a dime. 

The smartest marketing campaigns are the ones that will engage with consumers on some, if not all, forms of social media. Super Bowl ads are not going anywhere, that's for sure, but can the money be spent elsewhere for better results? Absolutely.

About Reva Friedel

Reva is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and the AP Party. She lives in Orange County and roots for zero California teams.