With each passing year, Super Bowl ads leave me laughing and feeling entertained. But they also leave the marketer in me with lots of questions.

I don’t understand how, in today’s marketplace, a Super Bowl ad in the marketing plan gets past a CFO.  With so much scrutiny on tangible ROI, it amazes me that so many companies justify spending that kind of money to compete in a highly cluttered environment where “number of impressions” is the primary metric.

Shouldn’t a marketing initiative be chosen based on its ability to drive results, not just make me laugh?

I was watching the Super Bowl commercials and thinking about the $3.5 million dished out by so many brands.  I’ve checked in on the ad meters, reading all about viewer impressions and expert opinions. While many of the commercials were entertaining, the problem with all of this banter is that no one is talking about whether these ads sold one bag of snacks on Monday, or if they will sell even one car in the next month.

When you hear what viewers are saying around the water cooler, they are talking about the entertainment value of the ads, most of the time ignoring the actual product attributes. They are judging the entertainment value of the ad, not the business value to the brand.  For Super Bowl, it seems the business strategy is to produce a more entertaining commercial than the one before, not build a brand by driving sales. The compelling reason to purchase the product can’t be because an overweight dog wants to chase the car.

Isn’t the point of marketing to influence purchase behavior?

I’m sure you heard, “Those dogs were so cute,” “Seinfeld and Leno together was brilliant,” “I laughed out loud when…” But did you hear any of your friends say, “Wow! I’ve never tried that product and now I want to!”?  Or, “I need to pick up that product the next time I go shopping!”?  I did, right after we shared the new Bud Light Platinum at our party. After sampling the product, our guests talked about its smoothness and great taste, and many declared that they intend to purchase it themselves.

Aren’t we most influenced by our own experiences?

What our friends said about the new beer clearly validated the messages in the brand’s commercials.  But it also shows me that a compelling ad integrated with the opportunity to experience the product is so much more effective in influencing purchase behavior.

And, isn’t that the point of marketing?  Don’t you want butts in the car seats, products being consumed and domain names being purchased?  Marketing, by definition, is supposed to set up the sale.  We have all heard the saying that “half of advertising works, but we just don’t know which half.” I’m betting most of the Super Bowl ads aren’t the good half.

Doesn’t validation have value?

Finally, I understand that as human beings, we buy on emotion and we are more likely to purchase if we have a positive feeling about a brand. But, if you want to advertise emotion, what about showing how your customers feel when they get to drive your car?  You are showing potential customers the behavior you want them to emulate, which may lead to a test drive in order to experience the emotion, which provides the dealers the opportunity to close a sale, which is what marketing is all about.

The only things that matters are results; tangible business results. Not a media placement that gets ranked by its entertainment value and has a low cost per impression.

Do you think brands get tangible business results out of the Super Bowl ads?