Super Bowl Ads: CEO Ego or Consumer Behavior Changer?

VW Super Bowl Commercial

Well it’s the week before the “big game” and the ad world has once again decided that spending $4 million on a 30 second ad that most people will forget about before the next $4 million has been spent is a good strategic brand building tactic.

I get it.  The CEO gets to go to over-the-top parties with Bruno Mars.  He sits in great seats at the game and it gives him another excuse to get out the corporate jet.  But sadly, research shows most brands don’t come back to the Super Bowl year over year and I’m guessing it’s because it’s so hard to get enough tangible ROI to justify the spend.

Sure Budweiser continues to entertain us with the Clydesdales (my wife loves those commercials but won’t ever drink Bud nor is she the demo and she’s probably 46% of the viewing audience – a woman).  Doritos is back with their integrated “Crash the Super Bowl VIII” and you have your share of car company ads again. Be honest and ask yourself, “do these ads change my purchase behavior?” The only ads that alter behavior are the movie trailers.  I’ve personally been at parties that people say they want to go to a movie based on the movie trailer being promoted.

I know, I know…there is so much “value” in the reach before and after the game with all the Tweets, YouTube views, web site visits and Facebook mentions – I get it!  But does it change behavior?  In the vast majority of cases, it sadly does not; it’s just $133,000 per second entertainment.  That’s because with most brands, you have to actually experience the brand to understand it.  Case in point: Audi.

I drive an Audi and Audi is back as a Super Bowl advertiser.  Based on the teaser I just saw for Audi, I’m embarrassed to drive an Audi (sorry, I don’t relate to a make believe dog breed’s life).  Actually, maybe because it is so ridiculous, I’ll buy a BMW next time.

Hello Audi marketers, if you want more people to buy your cars, you need to put more butts in the seats because the car sells itself once you have driven it.  A semi-humorous ad doesn’t make me want to drive an Audi; driving an Audi makes me want to drive an Audi.  Help me make a purchase decision by building an experience driving your car, then I’ll buy it and become a loyal customer who tells everyone what a great car it is.  If you get enough word of mouth from current customers, you can put that $4 million in your pocket and probably still go to the cool parties.  It will be interesting to see what Audi’s dealers think of their advertising co-op funds promoting a “doberhuahua”.

And, don’t give me the argument that you have to build awareness and the social media IS consumer engagement because the reality is all of it falls into broadcasting, not engagement.  If your goal is to build vitality for your brand, you better be engaging with your consumers and that means having two way conversations and preferably face to face.  We all are humans and we all thrive on human interaction; nothing from a flat screen is a human interaction and most of the time, it’s just noise.

Help me with this one…how, with all the corporate budget scrutiny in the marketplace today, does the finance department allow a $4 million spend on 30 seconds…does the CFO get to go to the parties too?

Let me know what you think.  I’d love to hear from a Super Bowl sponsor on how they spin the expenditure to make sense for their brand.