Two years ago, I asked, “Is a Super Bowl ad is the equivalent of lighting money on fire?”
Advertisers just ran a total of 66 commercials during this year’s “Big Game,” so apparently my column didn’t stop brands and their agencies from starting a bonfire of the vanities again this year.
Why do they persist?
Well, 112.3 million viewers watched the Super Bowl LVI last month, according to NBC.
(More than 101 million Americans watched the Big Game on live TV across NBC and Telemundo, according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen. Across all of NBC’s platforms, including its streaming platform Peacock, 112.3 million viewers watched the game.)
So, a lot of advertisers are convinced that Super Bowl advertising still works.
But not many can afford the price tag.
What’s the alternative?
Last month, I asked a diverse group of five digital marketing experts to share the advice that they’d give if one of their prospects or clients asked, “What’s the alternative to spending up to $7 million on a 30-second spot during the Big Game?”
And since many of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials were 60 seconds long, some of these brands and agencies might ask, “What’s the alternative to spending up to $14 million on an ad that reaches 112.3 million viewers?”
Use A Video Testing Tool To Perfect Your Final Edit
The first digital marketing expert to respond was Ian Forrester, the founder, and CEO of DAIVID.
He agreed to use his video testing tool, which uses Emotional AI to automatically predict video performance without the need to show creative to respondents, to analyze three or four Super Bowl ads.
But he asked me to select the ones that I wanted to test.
So, I selected four that would be of special interest to Search Engine Journal readers.
The first was “Old Friends. New Fun. | Meta Quest 2.”
The description of this 60-second long video ad says, “No one’s ever gotten the band back together quite like this. Quest is ready.”
The second was “Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Mind Reader.”
This 60-second long ad’s description says, “Is Alexa reading minds a good idea? No. No, it is not.”
The third was “The New Frontier’ Salesforce Super Bowl Ad | Join #TeamEarth w/ Matthew McConaughey & Salesforce.”
The description of this 60-second long video ad says, “‘Salesforce and Matthew McConaughey say the nature of business is changing.”
And the fourth was “Lizzo in Real Tone #SeenOnPixel.”
This 60-second long video ad’s description says, “Historically, camera technology hasn’t accurately represented darker skin tones.”
Attention, Emotions, Brand Attribution
Forrester, who lives in London (and uses British spelling), said,
“Focusing on DAIVID’s core metrics: Attention, emotions, and brand attribution, we can see that the four Super Bowl ads varied significantly in performance.
The charts below show the videos’ percentile score for each metric, as compared with the DAIVID US norm (50% percentile).”
Meta – Old Friends, New Fun
He added, “Meta scored well for attention. The ad captured attention, opening on an engaging, animated scene of 80s stuffed animals playing at Questy’s.
“The story then quickly unfolded in Toy Story-esque fashion, with the doggy lead singer cast aside by society and nearly meeting his fate at the hands of a garbage crusher.”
This brutally quick fall from grace maintained viewer attention, as viewers watched to see what would become of the band.
Forrester explained, “While outside of the top quartile for US ads as regards positive emotions, the emotional response to the ad was good. Kicking off with an aesthetically pleasing, the nostalgic scene worked well and the forlorn puppy wasting away on the side of the road evoked sadness and empathetic pain.
These empathic emotions then amplified feelings of warmth, relief, and hope when the quartet found a new lease on life.
Yet positive emotions could have been improved by developing the characters further.
Getting to know them better before their fall from grace would intensify sadness and empathetic pain such that the subsequent positive emotion would be stronger following their return to force.”
He concluded, “The Meta Quest 2 is integral to the storyline, facilitating the band’s comeback. This, combined with images of the metaverse which are now commonly recognized, drove strong brand attribution performance.”
Amazon – Mind Reader
Forrester said, “Amazon opened comparatively more slowly than Meta, with a normal looking house and couple, and Alexa streaming game day football. Only in the 8th second did Alexa’s more interesting capabilities start to surface, and a number of viewers had dropped off by that point.
Yet if viewers stayed to the 10th second, they were likely to stay to the end; Alexa’s mind-reading capabilities revealing the couple’s ever more outrageous thoughts maintained attention to the final screen.”
He added, “The ad scored strongly for positive emotions; things which are best left unsaid in a relationship or social situations struck a chord with viewers and evoked intense amusement. As with most ads that intensely amuse, the ad was polarising.
Some viewers found the ad too cringe-worthy, feeling awkwardness and embarrassment at the scenarios. This is to be expected: To make some viewers really laugh it’s often necessary to alienate others.”
Forrester explained, “Yet a deeper analysis of the ad’s negative emotions revealed a more concerning issue for Amazon. Some consumers are already extremely wary of big tech’s control of data and seemingly panopticon-like knowledge of their lives. This, combined with worries about the potential dark future that AI could create, caused some viewers to feel extreme distrust and anxiety upon viewing the ad.
Amazon would have been well advised to consider this adverse reaction before joking about its personal assistant being able to read minds. However, it must be stressed that only a small minority of viewers felt these emotions, with the vast majority being amused by the ad.”
He concluded, “The ad scored very strongly for brand attribution. Clearly, the storyline of the ad could not function without Alexa’s involvement and the video is peppered with Alexa’s sleek unit and iconic voice.”
Salesforce – The New Frontier
Forrester said, “The Salesforce ad opened well, with Matthew McConaughey’s soothing southern drawl over the space scene drawing in viewers. Unfortunately, this is where the positive story for the ad ended.
After the opening frames, the seemingly unrelated stream of scenes in which McConaughey ‘engages’ with earth by flying above it in a hot air balloon dressed as an astronaut mainly confused viewers, causing them to lose interest in, and turn away from, the content very quickly.”
He added, “The conflation of the universe and the metaverse heaped petrol on the flames of befuddlement, as did the wandering astronaut’s final appearance, in the middle of the desert. Widespread intense confusion inhibited the ad from evoking the knowledge, admiration, pride, and inspiration it was likely intended to elicit.”
He concluded, “Yet the worst performance was still to come. The ad placed in the lowest quintile for brand association. Those few viewers who did recognize the ad as coming from Salesforce were left scratching their heads as to how the business management system was related to focusing more on the earth and less on the metaverse; this likely did the brand more harm than good.
Mercifully for Salesforce, these viewers were few and far between, with most people simply either not remembering the brand or thinking that the content wasn’t an ad at all.”
Google Pixel – Lizzo In Real Tone
Forrester said, “The Google Pixel ad opened sedately by highlighting that camera tech has not accurately represented dark skin tones by showing people with dark skin tones in very dark photos. While this made the point well, the very dark photos in which people’s faces were obscured just looked like bad photography and did not retain viewers’ attention.”
He added, “Yet once the ad got going and the pictures of the PoC in vivid clarity came through, the ad evoked a range of intense positive emotions. Viewers were informed of the problem and were saddened, shocked, and angered by it, which intensified feelings of warmth, admiration, and pride at Google’s tech solving the issue.
Negative emotions were the lowest of the four ads, with some mild confusion (which was the main issue resolved upon the showcasing of the tech) and no other negativity of note.”
He concluded, “Brand attribution was good, with many viewers correctly recalling Google Pixel, although there was some misattribution to iPhone, to which the latter having spent millions of dollars extolling the benefits of its camera in recent years is likely to have contributed.”
The DAIVID Score
Forrester explained, “The DAIVID score is a combination of attention, emotions, and brand attribution. The chart shows how each Super Bowl ad places in percentile terms in the US for DAIVID Score.”
He said, “Meta’s strong attention and brand attribution caused it to score well. However, average emotional responses held it back from entering the top echelons of US content.”
He added, “Amazon’s mix of intense amusement and a very strong brand message caused it to perform most strongly. Better attention from the off and a mitigation of negative emotions would push the ad into the top decile. “
According to Forrester, “Saleforce’s combination of poor attention retention, intense confusion and an ad which had seemingly nothing to do with its creator’s service, resulted in a poor DAIVID score, approaching the lowest decile.”
“Google enjoyed good emotional responses and brand message but a weak opening held back performance, as many viewers had dropped off before the ad reached its pinnacle. Yet it still scored well, approaching the top quartile for the US.”
Explain Why An Average Investor Would Want Crypto
The second digital marketing expert to respond was Matt Voda, CEO of OptiMine, who I interviewed last month for “Advertising Around The Super Bowl: Q&A With A Marketing Strategist.”
He decided to share his insights on the Crypto ads and how they missed a huge opportunity.
One of the ads was “Ad Meter 2022: Coinbase.” There is no description on this 60-second long video ad.
Another ad was “The Moment of Truth | Crypto.com.”
The description of this 30-second long video ad says, “In his moment of truth, LeBron James called it.”
Yet another ad was “DON’T MISS OUT | :60.”
This 60-second long video ad’s description says, “The next big thing is here, even if Larry can’t see it.”
And a fourth ad was “eToro’s Big Game Ad: Flying Your Way.”
The description of this 30-second long video ad says, “Imagine a community where millions share ideas, trade stocks, crypto, and beyond.”
Voda said, “Watching this year’s Super Bowl ads, the sheer number of cryptocurrency ads really stood out. What stood out, even more, was how bad these ads were. Setting aside Coinbase’s floating QR code ad (which was innovative and highly engaging), the rest of the pack failed to tell stories about their brands, position themselves uniquely, or even describe why someone would want to own cryptocurrency.”
He added, “Crypto.com described how LeBron James could have made even more money had he invested in Crypto as a youngster, FTX told us not to be like Larry and eToro showed us floating people, who may or may not have been flying because they were suddenly rich. All of these brands – and, yes, they are brands – spent huge sums of money and they all missed an opportunity on the world stage.”
Voda continued, “Let’s start with some simple points: FOMO is NOT brand positioning. Crypto is an emerging technology that few people know anything about, and stoking fears about being left behind isn’t a great marketing strategy. Why not take some of this rare airtime to explain why an average investor would want crypto? How will it help improve our lives? Why not explain more about the problems it can solve?”
He concluded, “The gigantic Super Bowl stage is also an opportunity to build a brand, to tell stories about what the brand believes in and why it is different. Again, all failed to meet this opportunity.
We know nothing about any of the six Crypto brands, how they are different from each other, why we should care about any of them, or why we should feel positively about them – or, minimally why we should be confident that they’ll still be in business at next year’s Super Bowl. One could very easily swap out the six names and logos with each other, and nobody would know the difference. And that is a titanic failure.”
Leverage The Creator Economy
The third digital marketing expert to respond was Jim Louderback, the GM and SVP of VidCon.
He responded by saying, “OK, I won’t write 300 words but I will give you a listicle.” And he did.
Top 5 Things To Do With 7 Million Dollars Instead Of Buying A Super Bowl Ad
- “Give it to MrBeast. Tell him to do something fabulous and on-brand for both of you.
- “Partner with the D’Amelios and bring them on as creative consultants/part owners of your brand.
- “Build a brand with Emma Chamberlain.
- “Start a creator fund and save the world.
- “Do the world’s biggest micro-influencer campaign (pay 10,000 creators $700 each) in partnership with the top 3 agencies that have access to the TikTok Creator Marketplace, including Whalar, Captiv8, and Influencer.com.”
Keep Sales And ROI In Mind
The fourth digital marketing expert to respond was Aaron Gordon, the Founder, and CEO of Optic Sky.
I interviewed him about “Wegmans Holiday Commercial 2021” for my recent column entitled, “What Is A Content Marketing Matrix & Do We Need One?”
Gordon said, “I think the Meta Super Bowl ad could have been more effective. Not only was it the sole ‘downer’ ad amid a sea of uplifting spots, but it also didn’t do much to actually sell Meta Quest headsets.”
He added, “With headset sales and ROI in mind, Meta could have instead purchased just five seconds of Super Bowl ad time and launched a football-themed Meta Quest VR game – free on the Meta Quest store – in advance of the Super Bowl. A shareable, augmented reality ‘mini version’ of the game on Instagram, along with cost-effective ads on Facebook, sports and gaming websites, and esports competitions, would drive traffic to game landing pages.”
Gordon continued, “Meta Quest players could win a VIP trip to the Super Bowl and a ‘secret’ prize that would be announced during the Super Bowl itself. Players from all platforms could join a corresponding Facebook group to stay up to date.”
He explained, “During the Super Bowl, all players would receive a Facebook/Instagram push notification on their phones telling them to pay attention to the TV because the secret prize winner was about to be announced.”
Gordon proposed, “In a nod to Reddit and Coinbase, the 5-second Meta Super Bowl ad could simply feature a Quest-themed Instagram account handle, which people could follow to see the winner. The prize could be something like an exclusive NFT merch item for your VR avatar. Non-players who visit the account would be given an alternate promotion.”
He concluded, “Benefits of such an approach include only paying for a five-second Super Bowl ad slot, linking a VR competition to a real-world experience, leveraging Meta’s existing platforms and substantial customer base, and the ability to continue the campaign on an ongoing basis after the game. Plus, it would generate real FOMO in non-players and real sales for Meta Quest – from humans, not animatronics.”
Connect With New And Younger Audiences
The fifth and final digital marketing expert to respond was Francisco Schmidberger, co-founder at LINK, a digital agency that helps businesses grow their brand presence and go viral on TikTok.
He took a second look at “A Clydesdale’s Journey | Budweiser Super Bowl 2022,” which was directed by Chloé Zhao.
The description of this 60-second long video ad says, “This Super Bowl we have one message for America: In the home of the brave, down never means out.”
What Are The Super Bowl Lessons For Digital Marketers?
Schmidberger said, “Brands that spend big money on Super Bowl advertising are missing an opportunity to connect with new and younger audiences. A $6.5 million TV advert during a global sporting event is for sure going to see some effect, but it means brands are only reaching the top of the customer marketing funnel. Results are hard to measure, as is success.”
He added, “Comparatively on TikTok, LINK Agency could run six individual million-dollar campaigns – That could guarantee approximately 300M impressions. Whereas the average Super Bowl ad reached 112.3 million viewers. Rather than blowing everything on one (minute-long) shot, multiple TikTok campaigns reach a wider range of audiences whose niche interests can be leveraged to more effectively convert viewers to buyers.”
Schmidberger continued, “Budweiser is an excellent example of a Super Bowl advertiser that saw viral success in the past with their 1999 ‘Whassup?’ advert. But over 20 years later, Budweiser is failing to speak to the next generation. Trotting out the Clydesdale to a Super Bowl audience in 2022 is the epitome of preaching to the choir.”
He concluded, “While the symbolic pandemic recovery journey might have attempted to pull on people’s heartstrings, it seems unlikely we’ll be talking about it in a decade’s time. Classic brands such as Budweiser need to look for ways to stay relevant, and TikTok’s ability to send products viral with Gen Z audiences is not to be undervalued.”
Alternatives To Spending $7 Million On A Super Bowl Ad
So, there you have it: Five alternatives to spending another $7 million to $14 million on a Super Bowl ad again next year.
Hopefully, this will prevent brands and their agencies from starting a bonfire of the vanities during 2023’s Big Game.
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Featured Image: Phoenixns/Shutterstock