Ho-Hum Super Bowl Ads Fall Short
by Gerry Myers

Published in

Feb 8, 2008 

THE SUPER BOWL ... THE most anticipated television event of the year, especially for advertisers. This year's viewership broke all records ... 97.5 million ... nearly half of which were women. A 30-second spot cost $2.7 million. The question companies should be asking is, "Was it worth it?" Did advertisers get their money's worth?

The ads, as a whole, were unimpressive; many were aimed at young males and left a key segment of the population out. For an audience of more than 40 million women who spend 85 cents of every dollar, I found the mainly macho ad line-up to be not only annoying and sad, but bad business. To view any of the ads, click here .

As I watched one uninspiring spot after another, I began to think it was the ad writers who were on strike. Luckily the game held everyone's attention to the very end, since the commercials fell short. In fact many of the ads left me wondering why anyone paid $2.7 million to run that spot. People saw the ads, but will they remember them, talk about them, and even more importantly, will they buy the products?

In myriad mediocre ads, there were a couple that caught my attention. They were creative, had a clear message and resonated well with most men and women.

My favorite was the Budweiser ad where the Dalmatian becomes a personal trainer for a horse who longs to be part of the Clydesdale team. While the music and storyline of the ad is based on one of the "Rocky" movies, it shows determination, working hard to achieve your goal and other qualities women can relate to. The end is warm and rewarding.

Bud Light spent enough money to be able to provide a great diversity of ads. While still male-oriented in many ways, most of their ads were clever and entertaining. The man showing up at the wine and cheese party with the huge, fake wheel of cheese that hid his six-pack of Bud Light created a fun twist. The romantic dinner that showed the fire-breathing man had a humorous tone. The caveman and the invention of the wheel wasn't my taste, but again, they had enough for everyone and it wasn't offensive. I was encouraged by the fact that not too long ago, the Swedish Bikini Team and other scantily-clad females were the major focus of beer ads. Today, that's not the case.

Victoria's Secret's ad stayed with its traditional marketing strategy of sexy and alluring, but included the football theme and a timely Valentine's Day message.

The FedEx ad with the pigeons was engaging. Again, clear message, good concept and nothing was distasteful.

Sunsilk hair products definitely targeted women, but I found it amazing that so few ads did.

Ads don't have to target women to appeal to us. Women can like the ads, enjoy them and buy the product without being singled out as the consumer. However, when ads are offensive to women or they are ignored, they seldom make that product their brand of choice.

On the flip side are product ads that totally forgot who their target audience is. Both Cars.com ads were completely male-oriented. Women buy more than 50% of all cars, influence more than 85% of all vehicle purchases and do their homework on the Internet more often than men. For $2.7 million each, plus production costs, Cars.com should have had a broader appeal and better commercials.

Planters Nuts might appeal to some, but I found it to be one of the few that were borderline offensive. The use of an "ugly-Betty" type who dabs greasy peanuts on her body to drive men crazy with her aroma is not just offensive but ludicrous.

The Tide to Go ad had the opportunity to target both male and female customers, but instead created a spot that was difficult to understand and that made very little sense. It would get my vote for most disappointing ad of the Super Bowl. I expect better from P&G.

Most spots, like the Amp Energy drink, were blatantly aimed at a young, male demographic. I really thought that by now, with a woman running for president and where women out-earn their spouses in more than a third of dual-income families, that marketers, advertisers and companies would finally understand how important it is to market to women. But they still don't.

Beer and other companies have always coveted the 21-30 male market. But the Super Bowl isn't the venue to use for such a limited target market. The Super Bowl truly has a diverse audience from children to the elderly. Baby Boomers, because of their sheer numbers, provide a large segment of the viewership for this game, as do women.

Men are an important consumer, but so are women. And Boomer women have the most purchasing power, and will have it for years to come. So if advertisers are spending millions of dollars to produce and air a spot that a diverse audience will be watching, shouldn't that advertising attempt to reach the more diverse audience?

Perhaps agencies and clients should also look at other ways to spend $2.7 million that would be more effective, increase revenue and enhance their business models. There are literally millions of other ways to reach prime female buyers, one of which is a Women's Advisory Board . Other recommendations would be events aimed at women, tie-ins to local charities and cross promotions with other businesses that have the same customer demographic. Sampling, new product and other concept introductions might make more of an impact on a company's bottom line than its Super Bowl ad will.

For now, Super Bowl XVII is behind us and so is the infamous ad schedule. We can only hope that by 2009, clients and their agencies will realize the value women in the audience have on their future business.


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