'Super Bowl TV ads don't lead to online sales', says Rocket Fuel's Dominic Trigg

Kim Kardashian: stars in T-Mobile's Super Bowl commercial
Kim Kardashian: stars in T-Mobile's Super Bowl commercial

The Super Bowl is a definitive moment in the TV calendar for advertisers. It is the most watched sporting event on the planet, with 125 million viewers predicted worldwide this year.

But the cost of a 30 second TV spot during halftime has increased to an estimated £4.5 million this year, compared to 2011’s figure of £3.5 million.

Does it deliver in terms of driving business and sales for companies, as we are led to believe it does? I don’t believe it does anymore.

In the run up to the game there are endless stories heavy on speculation and qualitative analysis but light on real data and methodology.

A recent study carried out by Rocket Fuel analysed car and automotive companies which were responsible for placing the majority of TV ads during halftime in 2014, 2013 and 2012 against those who didn’t have any display and ads at all during the games.

Initially it looked as if there was a 14 per cent jump in online sales in the four weeks following Super Bowl among automotive advertisers. Not only this but the effect was even stronger if the brand was not advertising a luxury vehicle.

However, when we delved a little deeper into the data it became difficult to attribute the uplift to the TV spot. The 14 per cent increase was an industry-wide trend that occurred week to week throughout 2014.

If Super Bowl advertising were actually driving this trend we would expect a huge initial jump in online conversion rates immediately following the game rather than a general upward trend in the following weeks.

When we looked at available data on sales cycles for cars over that same period, it showed that the increase in conversion rates simply mirrored the monthly industry-wide sales growth.

Instead, brands looking to gain maximum impact from the Super Bowl would do well to embrace a wider range of approaches to advertising surrounding the Super Bowl.

The news from Facebook this week that they will be selling real time ads based on the content of their users posts is a welcome move towards a more targeted and effective way of working.

In the face of quantitative analysis, it may be time for marketers to punt the Super Bowl half time TV spot and use data to drive their marketing decisions around the game.

Until then, we'll be distracted by BGADD (Big Game Attention Deficit Disorder), brought on by children, food, bathroom breaks, Kim Kardashian and conversation during the Super Bowl.

Dominic Trigg is the senior vice president, managing director Europe, of Rocket Fuel.


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