They Wouldn't Really Buy an Ad on the Super Bowl, Would They?

By Published on .

Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
Earlier this year I was having a conversation with a reporter friend of mine about the many different media tactics presidential candidates could use to manage the mass of geography holding primaries on Feb. 5, 2008. We were discussing how much money a week's worth of TV costs in states such as California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois -- what the campaigns could possibly do with cable TV, syndicated radio, the internet and so on -- when I said, "You know, the Super Bowl is the Sunday before February 5."

When that premonition showed up in print, immediately my e-mail and voicemail boxes began filling up with messages from my throngs of fans wondering if I had lost my mind. I assured everyone that I was indeed fine and that I had given this possibility only a 1 in 10 chance of actually occurring. What followed was a number of conversations about the possibilities, and I began to make my case for why this is not as crazy as it seems.

In a nutshell, the decision will come down to cost and practicality. However, the cost would be insignificant compared to the potential impact on a campaign this kind of action might create.

Like corporate America, political consultants are very much aware of the power of buzz. For many of the same reasons companies flock to the Super Bowl to buy ads to promote their latest product launches, to prop up their aging brands or to just to show off to the competition that they can afford to run ads in such marquee space, so too might a front-running or crashing-and-burning presidential campaign consider such a bold move.

Now to the economics. Let us say that an ad in the big game costs between $2 million and $3 million. It's expensive, sure. But the media exposure is bound to be worth at least another $20 million. Furthermore, for the sake of argument, let's suppose the teams in the big game hailed from Feb. 5 states such as California and Florida. Then you would have an even larger audience in those delegate-rich states. Finally, the top-tier campaigns are likely to have plenty of money in the bank. And in politics, it's use it or lose it, because there is no second quarter in which to recover.

Common sense tells me there is only an ever-so-slight possibility, and it's likely such an ad purchase would be unworkable. But it does highlight the bona fide challenge ahead for the presidential campaigns in the constantly compacting political calendar.

Oh, and by the way, does anyone know what the lowest unit rate of a Super Bowl might be?

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Evan Tracey is the founder and chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.
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