We’ve had 50 years of kickoffs; 50 years of parties; and, of course, 50 years of commercials. These days the Super Bowl ads are almost more important than the game itself — and, this year, the "bargain" price of $5 million will get you a 30-second ad slot during the big game.
To put this into perspective, you can barely heat up a cup of coffee in the microwave in 30 seconds — yet advertisers are expected to get viewers interested in their brand in that short amount of time. Plus, the $5 million is just the beginning — this price doesn’t include the hefty production costs needed to compete with the likes of Coca-Cola, Budweiser, BMW and Doritos.
So, if you’re really thinking about handing over that much money for a short-lived amount of exposure, there’s a better option to consider.
Imagine if Blockbuster could go back in time and invest in better product development — like the types of online video streaming now core to Netflix. Do you think they’d choose that over spending millions on Super Bowl ads in the mid-to-late 2000s? Or what if RadioShack really could use the time-traveling DeLorean featured in their self-effacing 2014 Super Bowl commercial? Chances are they’d use it to avoid purchasing the ad slot in the first place — it could have freed up their funds to enhance the in-store experience by creating a type of Genius Bar for their customers.
While these companies have to settle with the clarity of hindsight, there’s one company that’s making a pre-emptive move instead.
For the first time in 12 years, GoDaddy will not be airing a Super Bowl commercial. Even though their controversial big-game ads are what put them on the map, the company realized they’ve outgrown this type of strategy. According to Variety, "GoDaddy no longer feels it needs the Super Bowl bullhorn to get the word out. The company will in the future focus more on using data to find audiences more likely to want and need its products."
"The stuff worked," said Phil Bienert, GoDaddy’s chief marketing officer (who, so it happens, is also my former boss from when I was at Citigroup!), about the old Super Bowl ads. "Now we are at the point where we don’t need to grow brand awareness domestically any more. A platform like the Super Bowl is really not something that’s necessary for us." Instead, GoDaddy has been putting increased effort into the personalization of their website, offering a more tailored and effective user experience — and since Centric Digital (and myself) is a frequent purchaser through GoDaddy, I can tell you it’s working well.
These are the types of digital transformations that revolutionize businesses. You’ll see a better return on investment by leveraging data to discover pockets of loyal customers than you would with a blanket ad. Sure, the appeal to reach 114 million viewers in one shot is great — that’s why so many companies agree to shell out this kind of cash — but the strategy behind it is past its prime. You’re throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks, rather than concentrating your efforts in an area where you know you’ll get the best return. You didn’t have the ability to use data to target your audience in 1967. You do now.
No matter how traditional the company, it’s not too late to start thinking about digital transformation — and it doesn’t need to cost $170,000 per fleeting second, either.
While every company is different, here are two examples of digital transformation initiatives in the $5 million or less range that will last longer than 30 seconds:
Retailers enabling mobile experiences in the physical store. This one is particularly poignant for retailers — consider the positive impact of offering a mobile app that will lead customers to products they’re searching for in the physical stores. Customers will no longer need to hunt down an employee, or wander aimlessly through the aisles, they can simply open up the app.
Automotive manufacturers offering a virtual-reality test drive. Automotive companies should start thinking about virtual reality experiences as an option for test-driving cars. Many customers research different brands and prices online from the comfort of their own home, why not let them virtually take the car for a spin in the same moment they’re considering the purchase?
If we spend the next 50 years doing the same thing, we’re going to get the same results. Digital technology is transforming how we do business and we need to transform right alongside with it. More companies should be thinking along the lines of GoDaddy, asking the question: How can I better serve my customers through digital experiences right now? The answers will help you grow your business in ways that a 30-second, multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad won’t be able to.
Brian Manning is co-founder and president of Centric Digital.