Fabio Rojas posted this article at Marginal Revolution, in which he challenges the conclusions of Slate’s Timothy Noah concerning Super Bowl ads.
Noah wrote that such ads aren’t worth the million-dollar price tag; companies could reach more people for less. Both Noah and Rojas try to explain why companies run ads anyway. The former claims it’s a forum for the ad agencies, the latter points out it’s good for company prestige. Assuming the conclusions are true, I would have to go with Rojas, who offers an excellent real estate analogy.
But I question the validity of Noah’s dismissal in Super Bowl ads. The goal of advertising is not to merely reach people but to get their attention. Even the best ads are worthless if the audience is in the kitchen making a sandwich. But Super Bowl ads are special and command attention like no other; some 20% (I think that number is right; correct me if not) of Super Bowl watchers are watching just for the ads. Attention is built in and that’s powerful.
It doesn’t stop there. Prior to the Super Bowl (and in the aftermath) we “get” a preview (or review) of the ads from the news networks, reaching a whole other market for free! (In fact, the media may need to pay to show them.) Of course, not every ad will get this bonus, but some do.
Another reminder that the world is more complicated than mere numbers.