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The Value of Super Bowl Ads

First Thought Larry Jewett - March 29, 2012 10:00 AM

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No matter who lines up on either side of the ball in the annual National Football League championship called the Super Bowl, the attraction of the commercials within the game can often transcend the thrill and excitement of the gridiron.

Many of us, especially those whose teams didn’t make it into the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl, are guilty of watching the game in passing, hoping more for the timeouts and natural breaks than the spectacular plays that will be playing ad nauseum on the sports highlight shows. Marketers know this and they have known it for decades. A stinker on the field is always a winner in the ratings, thanks to the high interest in the ads that have appeared.

There have been classics, ones that people talk about for years to come. For the advertiser, talk is great, but they need that call to action.

For the automakers that were involved in the 2012 Super Bowl, the investment seemed to be a good one … unless you’re not a domestic brand.  Car Woo! measured “Actual Change in Consumer Behavior, Interest and Activation”, which is better translated to mean “Did people actually buy the product” for the carmakers who advertised (and in, in one case, one that didn’t).

Their findings were released about four weeks after The Big Game. Chevrolet proved to be the biggest winner. Chrysler was second. The rest were Asian models, except for Cadillac, which finished sixth.

“Since CarWoo! is currently a U.S.-only service, and our buyers are typically within four days of committing to a car, our marketplace is the perfect spot to test consumer reactions,” said CarWoo! CEO, Tommy McClung. “Some makes, and even some specific models, saw huge jumps in buyer interest right away. Other ads may have more long-term effects, but it’s clear which manufacturers won the interest of current buyers.” Tens of thousands of in-market buyer choices were analyzed from The CarWoo! MarketPlace, tracking consumer interest in automakers who advertised against those who did not advertise. 

The Sonic was the biggest winner of all. Buyer interest in the Sonic increased by 292 percent after the Super Bowl, compared with non-advertised Chevrolet models. Its commercial featured a montage of Sonic “firsts,” such as “first skydive,” “first kickflip,” and “first music video.” The Camaro got a 163 percent push while Silverado saw 76 percent increase. It wasn’t all good news for Chevy, since the Volt received no measurable response.

Clint Eastwood’s “Half Time in America” spot gave Chrysler a second place position, reflecting a 26 percent increase for the brand. Ford, without spending a dime, found benefit. Thanks to the Silverado ad that reflected negatively on Ford products, the Ford F-series saw a 37 percent lift in interest after the Super Bowl. “In this case, it seems that the competitor’s jab slightly improved F-Series sales,” McClung said. “Ford should be ecstatic. They spent no money and saw an increase; some of their competitors spent millions on ads and celebrities and saw no immediate returns.”

Somewhere, there’s a lesson. The auto buying public can be a loyal yet deceptive group. With the exception of Eastwood, the use of celebrities didn’t move the meter and that is likely something that’s still being discussed by marketers planning campaigns. Of course, purchasing an automobile is such a major investment that it usually takes more than one impression to drive the consumer. Obviously, that’s why you see these ads repeated after the Super Bowl. (I have grown weary of the Seinfeld ad, but doesn’t Leno look great in a flying squirrel suit?)

You can do any number of things with statistics, but, to me, the underlying message is clear: Buy American. 

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