Bad Times Affect Ad Recall for Bowl Spots

Gallup: Weak Consumer Confidence Can Mean Less Attention

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NEW YORK ( -- If U.S consumers have money troubles on their minds, can it detract from their ability to remember what happens in an eye-catching Super Bowl commercial? The answer, apparently, is yes.

According to a Gallup & Robinson study of 12 years' worth of surveys about recall and likeability of advertising that appears in the annual pigskin classic, there is a direct relationship between the confidence people have in the economy and the attention they pay to Super Bowl commercials.

When consumer confidence is weak, according to the Gallup & Robinson data, recall is 11% lower than average and 36% lower than in good times.

Marketers who are spending the money to run a 30-second Super Bowl commercial should be "more cautious" this year, said Scott Purvis, president of the Pennington, N.J., market-research firm. Advertisers "probably always pay a lot of attention" to their Super Bowl ads, no matter what the cost of a commercial, but this year, "if you just do your ordinary fare, whatever that may be, you're probably going to take a little bit of a hit on your recall levels," he said.

Advertisers' dilemma
The findings underscore the dilemma advertisers face when running a commercial in this year's Super Bowl, often considered the best annual showcase for TV advertising. Many marketers depend on the attendant publicity that comes with having an ad in the game; companies often leverage a Super Bowl ad appearance for millions of dollars' worth of public relations in the weeks before the game and count on generating word-of-mouth buzz and internet activity in the hours and days afterwards.

The event regularly draws the biggest TV audience of the year. Many viewers watch the game live and, therefore, don't skip past the ads.

At the same time, the economy has made several people think twice about buying ad time in the game and no doubt adds to the pressure on those that have purchased time to make sure their commercials perform.

NBC has been seeking a record $3 million per 30-second spot, and while the network had momentum selling inventory in the spring and summer, it has run into more-difficult times since the recession took root in the fall. Perennial Super Bowl advertisers General Motors and FedEx have already announced they will pass on the event this year, citing economic considerations. NBC has told ad buyers it has about 10% of its Super Bowl ad inventory left to sell -- about six or seven 30-second spots. Buyers, however, suggest the network may have as many as 10 or 11 spots left.

Not the only factor
Of course, the economy isn't the only factor at play in when it comes to recall, said Mr. Purvis. The content of an ad is important, as is the quality of the game. Even so, Mr. Purvis said, "About one quarter of change in recall is related to the change in consumer confidence."

For 18 years, Gallup & Robinson has surveyed a group of about 300 viewers the day after the game about the commercials they remember and their reactions to them. The current study is based on data collected from 1997 to 2008, Mr. Purvis said. The firm studied the recall of only 30-second ads, not longer promotions or other types of Super Bowl advertising.

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