Reports of the Super Bowl's Demise Greatly Exaggerated

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

We come not to bury the Super Bowl as a marketing event but to praise it.

It's not fashionable to admit it, but the Super Bowl is still a key pillar in many advertisers' strategies. Despite the costs, there's a sound reason for that. Say all you want about the 30-second spot being dead, but network TV -- and this event in particular -- has more reach than any media vehicle on the planet.

Dozens of pundits and bloggers have spent this week criticizing the advertising in the Super Bowl. Management guru Tom Peters went to town on his blog about how much money is wasted by advertisers in the Bowl, given that many in the audience are not in their target group. He also rehearsed other arguments of the anti-Super Bowl camp: Too many brands get in simply because their competitors are in; the big game can't be considered a solid investment given the risk of a negative return. (The latter criticism becomes particularly pertinent given the weak creative quality and the offensive nature of some of these spots.) Ad Age has leveled all these criticisms too, and there's some truth in all of them.

But what has become obvious to most mass marketers in recent years is that they still need these big, instant-scale TV events. Of course they are not an end in themselves. They are a way of making the most of your other marketing investments and cannot be considered in total isolation from other efforts. Most marketers are working multiple channels, but microsites and other internet plays are lost to a large swath of the population unless you can find a way to tell audiences about them.

Unlike other big network-TV events -- "American Idol," for example -- marketers get much more mileage out of spots that run on the Super Bowl. Viewers flock to MySpace and other sites to view and review the spots after the game. They don't just talk about them; they pass them around.

One other small point. Sometimes the game itself helps out. This year's matchup was more riveting than any other reality-TV show this season and included two interesting big-market teams. That led to a record audience that stuck around for the whole game.

Good news for all of those who bet on the Super Bowl (and especially for advertisers who made the sometimes risky move of buying time in the fourth quarter).
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