Super Bowl

The Morning After: Tips for Surviving Your $4.5M Super Bowl Hangover

Second-Guessing Your Big Play? We've Got You Covered

By Published on .

Don't forget to hydrate
Don't forget to hydrate Credit: Illustration by Kelsey Dake

By the time you read this, it's Monday morning. Or possibly even Tuesday or Wednesday. And some people still won't shut up about the Super Bowl. It's almost like some people are 20-year-olds who don't have a lot going on outside of partying. "Hey, remember the other night when…"

Yes. We were all there. We all remember. We all saw the PuppyMonkeyBaby and if you say "Bro, did I really just see that?" one more time, I'm totally going to lose it.

I get it. Some people are still pumped up, excited about the one night of the year when Americans voluntarily watch ads.

But adland's big party has come and gone. All the months of hard work have paid off (you hope). Now, it's time for recovery, for some quiet reflection (please note I said quiet).

This year, the Super Bowl fell on the Sunday before Mardi Gras and Carnival, which is fitting. Also fitting is that for good Catholics across the world, Lent kicks off on Wednesday, so maybe join them and spend the following 40 days thinking about what you've done.

A select few of you may actually be suffering pangs of remorse. You just spent $4.8 million for that party. And that was just to get in the door.

Some of you spent all that cash and feel you have nothing to show for it. Maybe you made a fourth-quarter ad buy and the game turned into a rout and everyone switched over to the Puppy Bowl. Or worse, maybe your Super Bowl ad got slammed by Nat Ives and other ad industry critics. Or, worst of all, you didn't end up anywhere near the top of USA Today's AdMeter, getting beat by whatever bat-to-the-genitals humor Doritos' "Crash the Bowl" served up this year.

Fret not. I'm here to talk you through it. Or, more accurately, I'm here to offer you Five Excuses for What I Did Last Night.


Listen, we all know the Super Bowl isn't just about sales figures. If it were, it wouldn't command nearly as high a price. You'd think with 75% of the adult population tuning in, registers would be ringing across the land. But a Super Bowl ad does prove to Wall Street that you are a hot-shot, a serious player in the marketplace, a company with enough money on hand to flush $4.8 million down the Bowl. (Unless, of course, you didn't have $4.8 million in real money to blow. Try very hard not to think about all those Super Bowl advertisers from 2000 and 2001.)


Hey, everyone has to try it once, right? You just wanted to see what happened. If it worked and you liked it, come back again next year. If you didn't like it so much, or people didn't like you, it was a learning experience. The good news is that Americans have very short memories and those Wall Street guys only really care about your quarterly results. Even if you killed a little boy in your Super Bowl ad like Nationwide did last year, you'll likely be fine.


This is sort of like the bucket-list ploy, just a little more impulsive. You had some money lying around, a spot opened up last minute and you had this hilarious idea. Well, it seemed hilarious at the time. One thing led to another and there you have it. Are you proud about what you did? Maybe not. But what's the worst that could happen?

Well, consumers have short attention spans, but your procurement department doesn't. And you know what else? Forget the number crunchers for a second. It's 2016 and you treated one of the biggest marketing events as a one-off? You didn't commit to the relationship with a pre-game PR blitz and a 
post-game social media strategy? What kind of animal are you?


There are a select few of you out there who've fallen into this trap. You've become a legend on the scene and people expect you to show up and do your thing. Anheuser-Busch InBev had better show up with some Clydesdales for Budweiser and something funny for Bud Light. Coca-Cola? You'd better make us feel sentimental or noble or patriotic or all of the above (or angry and xenophobic, depending on political persuasion).

But all of those people screaming for a dog-and-pony show haven't bought a bottle of Budweiser in 20 years. So forget them.

The bigger issue is you drop out of the game 
entirely. You do that and the whispering on Wall Street gets going. Maybe there's something wrong with this company! They've lost their confidence! Or their money! Or their marketing acumen! Once the gossip mill really gets going, your name is ground into so much dust.

And you weren't going to let that happen on your watch. Well-played, Real Marketing Hero. Well-played.


You went big, so own it. This hangover is just a temporary thing and once it passes you'll have no real regrets.

This one, by the way, is much easier to pull off if your Super Bowl advertising actually worked. It's been known to happen! Hyundai's Assurance program in 2009. GoDaddy's assault on good taste for the last decade. WeatherTech's understated floormat ads the last couple of years. Avocados from Mexico in last year's game. All of these marketers can point to actual results from their Super Bowl ad.

If you were able to do that, I'm tempted to suggest you go scream it from the mountaintops for all to hear.

But then that would be sort of like admitting you had some doubts about that $4.8 million spend in the first place. And we can't have any rain on this parade.

--Ken Wheaton is the editor of Advertising Age.

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