Rethinking the Super Bowl spot

The much-ballyhooed 30-second advertisement spot at this year's Super Bowl costs a record $2.4 million.

The much-ballyhooed 30-second advertisement spot at this year's Super Bowl costs a record $2.4 million.

This year's crop includes the usual suspects, Budweiser, Pepsi, Honda, and Pizza Hut; and some first-time entries, Go Daddy and CareerBuilder.com. Advertisers and producers have toned down the salaciousness for 2005 after ads were roundly criticized at last year's game.

The question of the benefits of spending so much money for one ad has been widely discussed in the press and public relations industry, where that figure is much higher than many year-long PR campaigns.

PRWeek.com asked how PR professionals would spend a budget of that size. Respondents were asked to pick a company and explain why they chose that particular one, what they would do in place of the ad, and to break down their spending. Their suggestions follow below.

Paul Williams, brand examiner at weblog Brand Autopsy

Company: Go Daddy

Reason: Due to its dot-com status and the painful reminders of what advertising has been done historically for most dot-coms: not much.

Campaign: Do one of the following:

  • Offer 607,594 nonprofit companies free web hosting of their sites for a year.
  • Give each of the 75,000 attendees of the Super Bowl a free year of web hosting and five coupons to pass to friends, each good for a free year of web hosting.
  • Generate good will by supporting Goodwill - donate 240,000 pairs of kid's shoes or blankets for needy kids.
  • Become the source of choice for future domain/host users. Give graduating tech-college students their own free domain. You could create nearly 27,000 users and evangelists (that's 5,400 per US state) who would potentially buzz about your service.

    Cost: For reference, $2.4 million equates to 268,156 domain names purchased via GoDaddy at $8.95 each... or web hosting for 607,594 at $3.95 a year via GoDaddy.

    More suggestions can be found here.

    Bob Zeitlinger, managing director of B To Z Communications:

    Company: McDonald's

    Reason: National franchise food service companies like McDonald's have a general desire to be a more active part of their community. With consumer advocacy groups coming down on them with obesity claims, it would be nice to show the community that McDonald's is interested in its own community. Combine this with the fact that the walls and artwork at fast-food places and other establishments usually leaves a lot to be desired.

    Campaign: Community photo contests at each franchise ... with the winning photos blown up and framed and displayed prominently in the McDonald's franchise. Conducted quarterly, there can be as many as 10 winners or so. Rules would state that first quarter photos should be candid action shots of families having fun. Message here is that McDonald's is a fun, family place. Second quarter photos would be of kids playing sports. Message here is that McDonald's advocates an active lifestyle, and so on. Judges would be local dignitaries ... and unveiling of winners would in itself be an event. These contests can be promoted via newspapers and television. Media opportunities happen when the contest is announced and when the winners are announced. Entries can be solicited through media coverage as well as in store. It can also be solicited via camera shops, schools, etc. At the end of the year, winning photos could even be assembled into a book or a 12-month calendar. The calendar and/book would either be sold with profits going to a charity ... or it would solicit ads from local businesses, and again the profits would go toward a local charity.

    Cost: For each franchise, it would look something like this:

  • 10 frames (can be reused): $300
  • Blowing up/reproducing 10 photos each quarter $400/quarter or $1,600/year.
  • News releases - 10 per year: $5,000
  • Cost of media relations - 10 campaigns a year: $20,000.
  • Incidental costs per year (flyers and other promo material): $5,000
  • Rough costs per franchise: Less than $32,000, if they have an outside PR firm.
  • At this cost, McDonald's would be able to fully fund 75 franchises for the price of one ad.

    Kim Garretson, publisher of website LivingHome

    Company: Cosentino

    Reason: Because it will blow $2.4 million on a confused audience that likely can't find more info from its biggest retailer. Cosentino USA, a Houston-based maker of Silestone "natural quartz surfacing" will spend $2.4 million for a Super Bowl spot with athletes debating which countertop color best expresses their personalities. How pointless, and when you dig deeper, there's an excellent chance much of the money will be wasted on a confused audience and one frustrated when trying to learn more.

    First off, the majority of women planning a major kitchen remodeling likely have never heard of quartz as a material for countertops and many will react with the same thought when they hear about this option: "Quartz equals brittle."

    Also, the spot may mention that Home Depot is the primary national retailer carrying the product. Also, when you search for retailers at the Cosentino site, Home Depot's logo appears prominently. Too bad Cosentino and Home Depot haven't gotten together about the possible flood of visitors to HomeDepot.com to learn more. Search "Silestone" at the Home Depot site and your search is automatically altered to "Tilestone" with no relevant results. Then browse the list of the all the brands Home Depot carries, and I wasn't able to find the Silestone brand.

    Campaign: Publicizing the "Hammer Test".

    Offering women a small sample of the material with instructions for safely tapping it with a hammer to test its lack of brittleness would be the focus of the campaign.

    Cost: Breaking down the hard costs, a sample and its packaging, postage and handling should cost about $2.00 (using an online form for ordering). If the goal were to distribute 500,000 samples, the cost would be $1 million, leaving $1.4 million for publicity, special events, spokesperson tours and more. At a 2% lift in business, reaching the goal would represent 10,000 incremental customers. New countertops often average about $5,000 in a remodeling, meaning a $50 million lift in revenue.

    Eric Yaverbaum, founder and president of Jericho Communications

    Company: CareerBuilder.com

    Reason: To create a campaign centered around employment.

    Campaign: I would take the money allocated for the advertisement and start an organization run by Donald Trump or some other high-profile CEO.

    The company would be run and staffed by young Palestinians, Iraqis, Israelis, North and South Koreans, homeless Americans, wealthy Americans, and other people throughout the world. The company's "product creations" would be announced at a press conference on Super Bowl Sunday, with a goal to make $1 billion to be shared among charitable causes within the homelands of each of the participants.

    I would have Ken Burns (or a documentary film maker of that ilk) document the year-long process.

    The company would produce bowls... in fact they would produce "Super Bowls", that would be sold throughout the world. The bowls would be artistic, useful and a "symbol" that the family who owns them prays for world peace. The members of the company would each do a different job from procurement to marketing to sales.

    On Super Bowl eve 2006, the organization would hold another press conference and celebratory ball to announce how much money they had generated by working together in the "super bowl company."

    Cost: Yaverbaum did not break down the cost.

    In the spirit of fair play, we gave an ad agency professional (who doesn't have any clients advertising in the Super Bowl) the opportunity to explain why the spot is worth the price.

    Mark Levit, managing partner Partners & Levit

    "Super Bowl advertisers know they pay a premium for their spots. However, they receive more than just the value of their advertising. They receive buzz marketing - consumers talk about the advertising appearing on the Super Bowl broadcast, as though it's part of the entertainment. There are even websites that consumers visit in anticipation of the new "advertainment" that will air. Super Bowl advertisers offer their sales reps and executives bragging rights. It's a prestigious media buy about which they can talk to retailers, distributors and other stakeholders. Super Bowl advertising is bundled. When purchasing time on the Super Bowl broadcast, the advertiser receives seating at the event (great way to reward good customers or employees) and the right to merchandise their media buy in sales promotions."

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