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Super Bowl Sunday: Kickoff Time For Advertising


The American football championship known as the Super Bowl is also an annual championship for advertisers. Averaging over 100 million viewers, no other TV program comes close to reaching as many consumers during a four-hour slot. For brands willing to spend over $5 million for a 30-second spot (excluding production costs), the payback can be worth it.


A 2018 survey revealed that 1 in 4 viewers tuned in just for the commercials. In terms of cost effectiveness, one brewer reported making $100 million more, thanks to its Super Bowl ads. Comparing 168 Super Bowl ads over a 10-year period, we see shifts in the way brands are using the event. It’s no longer a single-day affair but now includes the weeks leading up to the game, with digital media extending the life of the ad — and the brand — on other platforms.

Super Bowl ads are indicative of broader advertising trends…

Greater use of digital tactics to generate buzz before, during and after the game

  • Pre-hype ads, using social media teasers to create buzz
  • Live ad spots during the game, supported via Twitter and YouTube
  • Ad variations and extended storylines after the event to drive engagement

Below are two past examples that represent the above trends. What will be the trending commercials for 2020?

2 trends in 1 ad: Stella Artois (2019)
2 trends in 1 ad: Stella Artois (2019)

Actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges revived their iconic roles to order Stella Artois instead of the usual drinks that they’re known for. But more than the celebrity appearances, this ad also featured a “do good” message: purchase a Stella Artois chalice, and a portion will be donated to to provide clean water to someone in the developing world

High-concept use of social media: Snickers (2017)


Leading up to the game, Snickers teased it would air the first-ever livestreamed commercial: a Western, starring Adam Driver, performed in real time. When it finally aired, things appeared to go horribly wrong. Snickers tweeted an apology, followed by a press release and video mea culpa by the actor. Social media debated whether it was an elaborately staged hoax (it was). Snickers even upped the ante by offering a buy-one-get-one-free offer as a way to make up for (or rather to keep milking) the gaffe.

Forget the hype!

By Iñigo Gallo, Assistant Professor of Marketing

Traditional advertising is dead. How often have we heard that one before, along with other pronouncements like the need for a brand purpose and the importance of an influencer strategy? For an industry whose bread-and-butter is staying ahead of trends, marketing sure is susceptible to slavishly following the latest ones. Far too often, when so-called thought leaders tout the new frontiers of marketing and advertising, they’re actually just jumping on the bandwagon. To avoid the hype of so many marketing conversations today, I recommend following these two industry gurus whose perspectives tend to go against the grain…

1. Mark Ritson

He was once facetiously described as “A bigger threat than Google and Facebook combined. Apparently.” This Melbourne Business School professor, award-winning columnist and consultant strikes the right balance between academic theory and business reality. His provocative critiques are always anchored in traditional marketing frameworks. Those looking for brutally honest, irreverent takes on marketing will find his pieces eye-opening and amusing. His Twitter profile photo of him with his head in his hands says it all.

2. The Ad Contrarian

Having been CEO for two agencies, Bob Hoffman is one of the world’s most influential bloggers, authors and industry experts. He doesn’t just call out short-term branding practices and misguided communication tactics, but he structurally breaks them down to explain why. From his blog site, you can also listen to his podcasts as well as subscribe to his newsletters. His explainers are delivered “in plain English…so simple even a CEO can understand it.”

A version of this article is published in IESE Business School Insight #152.

IESE Insight

IESE Insight is produced by the IESE Business School, a top-ranked business school that is committed to the development of leaders who aspire to have a positive, deep and lasting impact on people, firms and society through their professionalism, integrity and spirit of service.

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