Will Your $4-Million Super Bowl Ad Soar or Flop? Find Out Before You Air It


ADOTAS – This year, a 30-second spot during Super Bowl XLVIII will cost about $4 million. Even for mega-brands, deciding to spend millions of dollars for one ad is not an easy decision – especially since the stakes are so high. A well-received Super Bowl ad will deliver lasting brand lift worth every dollar, but a flop will cost the same and could do irreparable damage to your brand.

With so much money – and your brand equity – on the line, it’s critical to test potential Super Bowl ads before airing them. Consumer expectations for commercials during the Super Bowl are exceedingly high; this is the only day of the year where TV viewers expect to be delighted by commercials. (There is a reason Super Bowl ads cost $4 million – because it’s the only televised event where over 100 million consumers actually look forward to watching commercials.)

In 2013, Colgate-Palmolive’s Speed Stick brand purchased a coveted and high-priced Super Bowl ad. Given the exorbitant price tag for just 30 second of airtime, they took steps to ensure that the ad creative itself was the most engaging and memorable video asset they could get their hands on. The company tested several commercials on well-known video sites in the run-up to the Super Bowl, measuring the effectiveness of the ads. The highest-performing ad went to the Super Bowl.

I happen to know a lot about this particular Speed Stick ad, because I produced it. To develop several possible Super Bowl commercials, Speed Stick invited agencies and creative professionals to take part in an ad creation contest using Tongal, a crowdsourcing platform for video ad creative. Through Tongal, I produced the Speed Stick “Laundry” commercial, which was selected to run during the first commercial break in the Super Bowl’s third quarter.

The idea of pre-releasing potential Super Bowl ads before the Super Bowl would have been unthinkable just five years ago. Agencies spent months crafting their best work for their brand clients, and then unveiled the ‘finished product’ during the game. But now, more and more advertisers are using the testing approach to try out several different ads before the game airs – gaining buzz and social traction for their brand during the process.

Will we see more brands releasing ads online prior to the big day? Probably. Some say it kills the surprise, but Scott Campbell, general manager for integrated marketing communications at Colgate-Palmolive, disagrees. In a New York Times interview last year, he stated, “We don’t see any down side to forgoing the ‘aha!’ moment during the game…whatever we get by giving it to our online community is all to the plus.”

But there are right and wrong ways to test your potential Super Bowl ads before the Big Game, and these same testing rules apply to campaigns launched throughout the year. To make sure you get the most accurate insights into which ads deliver the best engagement, effectiveness, and social reach, you don’t just have to measure metrics, you have to measure the right video metrics – something many advertisers still don’t get right.

The days of seeing the Volkswagen, eTrade, and Budweiser commercials for the first time on the day of Super Bowl are long gone. Now, consumers can log in days or weeks before to see a huge selection of game-day commercial contenders. As an advertiser, it makes sense to test and measure several potential creatives before choosing the best to air during the Super Bowl and increasingly, it will make sense to test multiple creatives before making any media buy at all.


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