Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 Superbowl Advertisements, Selling Sex at a Big Cost

by Rick McNeely
Its that time of year again, Super Bowl 46 is set to kickoff on February 5th, 2012 at 6:30 EST on NBC. Like many people, my favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday is the commercials. With over 100 million viewers and 30-second ads selling for $3.5 - $4 million, the pressure for advertisers to produce ads that grab the consumers attention is greater than ever.

Like most “average” marketing folk, the thought of spending up to 4 million dollars on one 30-second commercial is hard to grasp. Keep in mind, the air-time cost doesn't include production expenses and neither celebrities nor pets work cheaply.

Stakes and interest in Super Bowl commercials are high, so high in fact that there are recognized experts on Super Bowl advertisements. Two such internationally recognized experts are Dr. Rama Yelkur and Dr. Chuck Tomkovic of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Marketing Department. So after nearly 20 years of research, their observations might surprise you. “We found that the more sexual content there is in a Super Bowl ad, the less people like it,” stated Dr. Yelkur. “Sex appeal does not cause ad likability.” However, there are some elements that can help sex sell in a Super Bowl commercial, namely to include humor or other appealing elements.

So what about GoDaddy? When I think of Super Bowl commercials, GoDaddy is the first name that comes to my mind. “The GoDaddy spots are almost like soft porn,” according to Tomkovick. “They are way, way over the top, adds Tomkovick. But they use the ads to drive people to their website. Their goal is clearly product name recognition and not likability. They don't need to be liked.”

While not being liked by a Super Bowl viewer is one thing, liking a considerable growth in market share may be more important. When GoDaddy began SuperBowl ads in 2005 they had a market share of about 15%, in 2012 they have a market share of 52%. Estimates place costs to create and broadcast their ads at $70 million. These same estimates credit their Super Bowl campaigns of generating about one billion dollars in revenue. That's a ROI that's easy to like.

In closing, what is the experts' advice to advertisers regarding sex and Superbowls ads? “TV that is built around sexy women, sex appeal is becoming more a part of our TV culture again,” Tomkavick said. “Sex appeal is being used again in Super Bowl ads for everything from cars to beverages.”

“To make ads likable, advertisers should pair sex appeal with other ad elements that will be viewed favorably,” Yelkur said. “For example, humor often boosts ad likability.”

Agree with the experts or not, this Super Bowl should provide some great likeable commercials. If this research is true, Madonna might want to tell a joke during her halftime set.

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