Film Theory: Why Super Bowl Commercials LOSE the Big Game!Dec 27, 2021
Ah, the Super Bowl commercial. The pinnacle of artistic expression. When done right, they challenge the mind, inspire the heart, and some, only the best of all, can truly evolve us as a culture. (That's good!) (That's good!) (That's good!) (Bleeeeeeeeeeehhhhh!) Hey, look, I didn't say it made us evolve for the better. Hello Internet! welcome to Film Theory, where we always root, root, root for the home team, as long as that team's mascot is statistical analysis. And before we get started, a quick shout out to Merginq: the first official comment on the Poppy conspiracy video. To be this early, you either ring the subscription bell or you're part of the Illuminati.
If it's the first, hey, thanks for the support. If it's the second, please don't make me disappear. Please. I HAVE MANY THEORIES TO GIVE! But enough of subservience to the Illuminati. It's that time of year, my theorists, when the national conversation is dominated for an entire week by a 4-hour marathon of grown men running into each other for the most aggressive hugs. To answer the age old question: (♫ Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?! ♫) No. No, I'm not. And no, Monday Night Football, no amount of destruction of national monuments is going to prepare me. Thanks though. Now, all this isn't to say I don't like the Super Bowl, actually, not at all.
True, I may not be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to Sportsball, but I do love gigantic plates of chicken wings and sarcastically tweeting at halftime shows gone hilariously wrong! No, not that. It is not this one. You left shark! You do. DANCE! DANCE LIKE NOBODY'S WATCHING! No, throughout the night, away from the pigskin, there is another higher stakes
gamethat interests me more. And no, I'm not talking about the Kitten Bowl, I'm talking about the
commercials. Nearly one in four viewers of the Super Bowl last year reported that they were watching only the
Which is fascinating. I mean, everything from Tivo to ad-blockers to YouTube Red seems to indicate that we try really hard to avoid commercials, but one day a year, we all agree to give them a chance. And companies pay: 5 million dollars for just 30 seconds! In the next 10 years that number is expected to rise to TEN million dollars per 30 seconds. At that rate, someone yelling "DIET COKE!" to the camera for a second would cost $150,000. One hundred and fifty THOUSAND for a SECOND! but sometimes, if you do it right, you create a classic, like the 1984 Apple commercial or "Where's the beef?" from Wendy's. advertisement.
Note, however, that I said, "if you get it right." Because for every memorable one, there are dozens that are forgotten faster than an American Idol finalist. Except for you, Clay Aiken, you will never be invisible to me. So today I set out to determine, based on the data, what makes the perfect Super Bowl commercial. I measured various ad scoring systems, best and worst of the year lists, corporate stock price fluctuations, Google Trends search data, basically everything about commercials from the last ten Super
bowls to answer that last question; Who will win the GREATEST of great
games? The Super
bowlCommercial Supremacy game.
So strap on your helmets, team of theorists, and pat your ass next to you because it's time to get started! That's a football term for starting the game. Now, if we're going to build the perfect Superbowl commercial, it's a good idea to start simple. What should the commercial sell? The obvious answer seems to be beer. With beer commercials dominating the list of top-rated ads over the past ten years, with twenty-three of the top 100 ads, the most of any product category, and an average USA Today Ad Meter score of 7.91 out of 10. That Ad Meter, by the way, is the most famous review mechanism for Superbowl commercials, and a score of 7.91 means the audience really liked those commercials.
Long story short, just do a beer commercial, right? Well, those stats should come with an asterisk, because every one of those 23 commercials is for either Budweiser or Bud Light, and Anheiser Bush, which makes both beers, has multiple ads during the big game. Over the past two years, sure, they've had two top-ten commercials, but four MORE that didn't fare as well. So just being a beer won't result in a slam goal. Uh, one field down. Just kidding, I know enough about sports to know it's called a home run. In fact, being a beer could be the football equivalent of being in the penalty box.
In a Stanford Graduate School of Business study of Super Bowl commercials, researchers found that when two big competing brands advertise, most of the profit from running the ad is eroded. So, in other words, even if you ran a great beer ad, there's a high chance that Bud Light will still get the credit. Instead, you'll make the most money from your commercial if no one sells a product in direct competition with yours, eliminating beers, automobiles, and insurance providers. Let me just say that I know football has a lot of head injuries, but really, WHY are there so many insurance commercials during the Super Bowl?
Because I, as a football spectator, want to think about responsible economic decisions, while my wing-stained fingers reach for another handful of pork rinds? Speaking of snacks though. In fact, it's the best product to advertise during the Super Bowl for multiple reasons. One, it's easy to tell Doritos chips from Dannon yogurt. One is delicious, and the other is a bacteria-infested pinwheel. I've never understood you, yogurt. You are so strange. One is delicious, and the other is a bacteria-infested mill. I can not do it. One is delicious and the other... Damn it! Get over it, Mat! One is delicious and the other is bacteria infested milk.
And two, according to the same Stanford study, if a Super Bowl commercial can establish an association between consumption of your product and watching sports, then people are more likely to buy it at future sports sessions. So, okay, we're looking for snacks, but what's the optimal time to do it? According to the data, you don't want to be too early - phrasing... but you also don't want to risk being too late. Airing a commercial later in the game risks losing viewers who turned off the game because the score is not c
lose. In 2014, for example, the Seattle Seahawks demolished the Denver Broncos 43-8.
And by the fourth quarter, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. As a result, by the end of the game, only about 46 million viewers were left watching. As such, the second trimester is ideal. Not only are overall commercial rankings highest this quarter, but placing your ad in Q2 also capitalizes on another benefit, social media traffic. This Nielsen chart shows the distribution of tweets during last year's Super Bowl, and that spike in the middle shows that people are much more active on Twitter during halftime. Airing a commercial during the second quarter increases the likelihood that social media traffic will be fresh on people's Facebook and Twitter feeds before it's all buried under snarky tweets about the halftime show, leading to more views and more shares.
And seriously, let's face it, when are you in the mood for a snack commercial? In the beginning, when could someone go for a run during halftime? Or in the fourth trimester, when you've already eaten half your body weight in nachos? I mean, even FatPat has its limits. So we have the theme and the timing, now all we need is the tone. What style of trading works best? Is it better to be funny, like Betty-White-talking-trash-during-a-funny-football-game, (Betty: That's not what your girlfriend said!) or do you hit them right on the sit, Let's say, like a lost puppy that is saved by some horses and then they become friends, and then the puppy is reunited with its owner?
And... why are we chopping onions in my recording c
loset? I'm fine. Well, here's the big secret: it doesn't matter. If you really want to do a Super Bowl-winning commercial, just feature an animal. It's no joke, nothing beats the power of cute. Throw in a sad puppy or a funny pack of cats, and the overall Ad Meter audience approval scores for those commercials jump to an average of 8. A point and a half above a typical animal-free ad, regardless of tone. Just, uh, make sure you don't overdo it and create something like Mountain Dew's 2016 puppy-baby-monkey monstrosity. Just... just no.
It's like an amalgamation of horrible Undertale. There's a reason this brand-approved vomit stack was reviewed with a 3.9/10. Abysmal! But then again, looking at the data, it generated the biggest internet response of the night, with almost 50,000 tweets immediately after it aired. So the best strategy is to make the worst trade? Well no, actually. Looking at the stock price of Pepsico, the company that owns Mountain Dew, didn't do much for business the next day, only getting a slight 1.17 point boost. Any fringe benefit they got from the Super Bowl commercial was extinguished within a week. And actually, when you look at the data, it's a common trend among companies that advertise during the Super Bowl.
Looking at Google Trends search data, sure, on game day and immediately after, searches for Doritos, the business winner of the past few years, show a huge increase in search, but by the end of the week, they're back. . up to normal levels. People have moved on with their lives and think of Doritos the same way they have always thought of Doritos. Like triangular shaped signs of the Illuminati. And that, honestly, brings us to our final answer. The Illuminati. No, no, sorry, that was the last video. The definitive answer to how to create the best Super Bowl commercial is that you don't.
Sure, you can shell out your five million dollars, grab your snack, identify some cute animals, cram something fun into the second half, and then cross your fingers that the masses A) are watching, B) won't hate it, and C), no one else is paying for a similar product, or you just spend that 5 million dollars somewhere else. Somewhere better. Somewhere where you will actually get a solid return on that money. Because here's the thing: making a Super Bowl berth is the biggest gamble in the game. The competition between advertisers is the fiercest of the year, not everyone sees the commercials, but most of all, the value you get is questionable at best.
Remember I mentioned earlier that Bud Light is usually a top contender for this? In fact, Bud Light has been the official beer of the NFL since 2011, and it paid $1.2 billion for that right, but in that time its volumes have fallen more than 10 percent, losing ground to independent local craft beers. . Sure, according to Google Trends, brands like Doritos get a sharp boost in search every year they run an ad, but it's gone within a few days. In fact, one advertising research firm estimates that 80% of Super Bowl commercials do not increase sales. Another survey by marketing analytics agency Adlucent showed that less than 1% of viewers watch to influence any type of purchase.
And looking back in history, many companies that ran Super Bowl ads went out of business soon after. One of the most famous was pets.com, a company whose first commercial was a Super Bowl ad, which ranked #1 for the year and had the highest brand recall from audiences of any other ad. And yet, despite generating a ton of brand recognition by spending over $11 million on ads, that year, they only earned $619,000 in business. Even the best Bowl ad failed to attract customers, and they quickly went out of business. Then there was Just for Feet, which went bankrupt in large part thanks to its racist ad drugging a Kenyan runner to give him tennis shoes.
Or, what about Wix? A company that never posted a profit, but decided to run a ten million dollar ad anyway in hopes of turning its fortunes around? Over the next two days, his stock plummeted! Not just because they didn't get any new clients, but because the shareholders were like, what are you doing?! Luckily for them, the share price returned to the average later in the week. Even going back to the iconic Apple commercial I mentioned earlier, this was perhaps the commercial that turned Super Bowl ads into the spectacle they are today. Oh, and Apple tried to do it again the next year, with an ad showing people jumping off a cliff like lemmings, it didn't work out so well and they wouldn't make another ad during the big game for another 14 years. .
But perhaps most telling of all is last year's Esurance, a company that didn't run an ad during the game, but rather did it before the game, and dominated the networks.social networks, getting eight times the number of mentions for their hashtag relative to the latter. place. And those are just a few select examples! So what do you do with that five million dollar pile of money instead? Push it into your mattress? No. Buy 1.7 million Crunchwrap Supremes? Nyeh, not so hungry. Spend it on YouTube? Absolutely. That. And sure, you might think I play favorites, because, you know, this is where I work and all, but let's compare.
The main value that everyone cites about the Super Bowl is that it gets their ad in front of over 100 million people watching the game. Okay, well, for five million dollars, using YouTube's ad buying tools, you could pay to have your ad appear in front of at least 100 million video views. Seriously, that's what it would cost. And that's assuming five cents per view, which would be what's called a "directed view." You see, by paying a little more, I, as an ad buying executive, can make sure my ad runs in front of certain videos to target certain types of viewers. it wouldn't make much sense to run a motor oil ad in front of Zoella, since her audience isn't tuning up the car much.
But if you really wanted to, you could, paying a little more. And for five cents, you can actually get a fair amount of guidance. In other words, for five cents a view, I could force my wacky Mountain Dew pup-monkey-baby in front of every player, and everyone doing an embarrassing build as well, and boom! Suddenly, I found my perfect audience for that weird freak show I thought was a good idea that clearly won't sell me any more Mountain Dew Jumpstart, but hey, at least sarcastic gamers will make fun of it and I'll be all over the trending hashtags.
But not only would I have more control over who would see my video, but I would be more confident that those people would SEE my video. YouTube doesn't call them TrueView ads for nothing. You have to see them to be able to see the video you came for. And even if you waited the five seconds and then clicked "skip", well, that's the same as turning off the ad on TV and walking around for more chips. But at least in this case, I know I have a full five seconds with you. And honestly, the benefits just keep coming!
Thanks to online data, I can see the direct impact of my ad. Did you click "skip" or not? Did you click on my website or not? So instead of spending the five million dollars all at once and crossing your fingers that you like it, and that it works, and that you go to my website, and that you download the thing, and that you buy the app, or whatever In fact, I can run the ad on a small scale, refine it, and cut it back down to make it better and more effective, and then scale it up to that five million dollars!
The money will be more cash, which means my risk as a business owner is drastically reduced. So for the same price, I get the same number of views, with more reliability in which eyeballs are looking at me, and also HOW they look at me. This is all good, and it doesn't stop there. An ad like this would have a better chance of going viral and more staying power. Do you need an example? Look no further than the one ad that keeps kicking your butt, (Is it the Legend27?) The Legend27. By filling YouTube with this ad everywhere for a month, Game of War was able to instill Legend27's epic lore in enough people's heads that it created a meme, which has kept people talking about it for weeks after it ceased to be. fun, creating their own spin-offs and video remixes.
It's also been weeks since they stopped running it as an ad unit. That, my friends, is the Holy Grail of advertising, resulting in not just more views, but the kind of cultural shock that "Wasuuuuuuuuuup!" and "Where's the meat?" videos have taken off the Super Bowl in the past. It's not a one or two day spike like you see Doritos in Super Bowl advertising, it's a multi-week to multi-month or lifetime change in the way people talk and behave about your product. . Heck, you might even throw a few YouTubers into the mix! I guarantee they cost a lot less than the $500,000 to $2 million that traditional celebrities charge for their 30-second ad.
Heck, I bet most would do it for the free bag of Doritos, or an awesome puppy-monkey-baby selfie. That's social media gold. But hey, that's just a
theory. A movie
theory! Aaaaaaa and touchdown!
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