Super Bowl

In the Era of 'Like,' How Much Does Liking a Super Bowl Ad Affect ROI?

Very Little, According to Millward Brown Optimor Study Findings

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Philip Herr
Philip Herr
Each year the Super Bowl commercials bring out fans, critics and USA Today's Ad Meter, a fun, democratic way for Americans to pick the ads they like the most. So seriously have Ad Meter's findings been taken, that in 2007, put its account with agency Cramer-Krasselt on review after its Super Bowl ad didn't make it into the Top 10 Ad Meter rankings. Pity CareerBuilder didn't have the benefit of the following findings from a Millward Brown Optimor study commissioned by the NFL before parting with their agency:

1. A spot on the Super Bowl is equal to, on average, 250 spots on regular TV for the top spenders. This means that to get the same sales uplift, advertisers can spend $9 million on 250 regular TV ads or $3 million for 30 seconds of Super Bowl airtime.

2. The more established the brand, the better the extended ROI from a Super Bowl ad. While most brands experience an average lift of 12% in sales the week following the Super Bowl, this impact is sustained for much longer for large, established brands. One month out, we noted an average 9% sales increase for established brands, vs. 3% for smaller ones. This implies that the Super Bowl is a particularly good investment for well-established brands. So a brand like Pepsi might sustain a strong multiweek lift, while a smaller brand like Sierra Mist Free would not.

3. A spot on the Super Bowl had a positive halo effect on related but unadvertised brands. For example, Diet Coke would sustain a lift in sales courtesy of Coca-Cola even if it hadn't advertised, as would Tostitos when Doritos was the advertised brand.

4. The quarter of the game in which a brand advertises is irrelevant. ROI is the same whether the brand advertises in the first, second, third or fourth quarter.

5. There is much more to a successful Super Bowl ad than likability, making the Ad Meter rankings a fun indicator of fleeting popularity but not something to fire your agency over. In fact, our study showed that there is very little relationship between Ad Meter rankings and in-market ROI. As readers of this column know, if viewers like what you depict in your ad, but fail to connect your brand name or your message about the brand, then much of your activity has been wasted.

While "liking" has clearly proven to be a strong indicator of creative performance, we have seen that "transitory" liking doesn't always translate to sales effectiveness. In fact, many well-liked ads were as likely to result in a nonexistent or negligible ROI as a high ROI, according to our study. Overall enjoyment is only one factor that makes for successful advertising. It is a necessary, but not sufficient, factor to success.

Our study used econometric modeling to determine the sales uplift generated by Super Bowl ads. The study looked at 30 brands in the five most-popular categories covering the biggest spenders over the past three Super Bowl games. Categories included beer, carbonated soft drinks, snacks, movies and auto brands. In all, more than 250 variables, including price promotion, displays and seasonality, as well as all other advertising activities, were analyzed to isolate the impact of the Super Bowl event.

What's the biggest takeaway for advertisers in all of this? Don't fall into the trap of standing by the cash register expectantly, or, worse, fear that your ads may have failed to perform based on popularity contests. It takes extensive analysis to determine return on investment for Super Bowl ads -- more than likes on Facebook, the number of tweets generated after your ad airs, what your friends think, or its ranking in the Ad Meter. CareerBuilder's back in the Bowl this year, this time with an ad developed in-house. Hopefully, no matter how it ranks in the Ad Meter, it won't fire itself.

Philip Herr is senior VP-intelligence at Millward Brown.
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