Huddle or Punt? A Formation for Determining Super Bowl Return On Ad Spend

Inplace #2

As some 30-second TV spots for the upcoming Super Bowl XLIX go for $4.5 million — not including production — a whole lot of advertising people are talking internally about Return on Ad Spend, or ROAS.

On the one hand, millions of viewers will tune into the most-watched live-TV event of the year. On the other hand, if your spot appears late in a lopsided game and (like last year’s Seahawks/Broncos debacle), how many of those viewers will still be around? Factor in social media components and the unpredictable long tail of Internet ad replays and commentary, and determining the actual return on a Super Bowl spot becomes rather tricky.

As advertisers, buyers and analysts tweak their parameters in order to optimize their Super Bowl decisions, they should be sure to analyze three areas deeply.

Social Media

Since the advent of social media, advertisers have been striving to successfully integrate it with their TV campaigns. More and more consumers are engaging on second and third screens during the game.

As you search for the right audiences and social networks, examine third-party social-media trend analysis provided by companies like Shareaholic and ShareThis.

However, given the mercurial nature of social-media trends, you’ll also want to analyze the most current consumer behavior, taking a close look back at metrics measured during last year’s Super Bowl. Basic stats and highlights are available in press releases issued by social sharing tools companies, and easily added to your own analytics.

Content Engagement

Much as you analyze a media buy by audience and channel, take the same approach to creating and placing content. The noise out there has made it harder to attract and engage your audience. As you map out your content strategy, two important aspects to consider are trending topics and engagement by device.

  1. Trending topics: All of your competitors will tie their content to the game. That makes it timely and relevant, though not necessarily original or effective. Instead, look at which of today’s top trending topics resonates most with your target audience. Use this data to develop your content strategy. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include a game-day element. Rather, it may tell you how to make that element work. Pigeonholing your content too closely on the game may mean sacrificing an opportunity to really engage your buyers. Not every Super Bowl viewer is an NFL diehard.
  2. Engagement by device and format: Some content categories, such as long-form narrative, are more popular on laptops than on mobile devices. Other formats, such as video, engage prospects more effectively when they’re mobile. Make sure you understand how your audience engages with content.

For example, many financial-services companies that spend ad dollars freely on the Super Bowl would benefit from learning that 64 percent of traffic to personal finance content occurred on a desktop during the recently ended third quarter.

Extend your analysis to extend your campaign

If you look only at the period from the campaign launch to a few days after the game, your picture will be incomplete. So when you analyze the combination of channels that influenced consumer behavior and inspired action, be sure to extend the dates of the analysis. When trying to maximize your campaign to get more bang for your buck, context is king.

To get the most from your investment, you may want to consider extending the campaign itself. Specifically, time a second wave to coincide with draft picks, player trades and pre-season games, because they’ll be front and center in the news.

There’s no shortage of data when it comes to making a Super Bowl ad-buying decision. The question is, which data is most relevant?