Super Bowl Ads Near Sell-out … WHY?????

Advertising Age reports that close to 90% of advertising time for the next Super Bowl is already sold. To the marketing folks at companies on whose behalf this time has been purchased, I have a question:

Did you buy anything as a result of the Super Bowl ads last year?

In fact, here’s another question for you:

Do you remember most of the Super Bowl ads from a year ago?

If you’re spending money, huge money, on advertising during the next Super Bowl, you better be able to answer a resounding “Yes” to both questions.

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am not a fan of “killer” creative, which seems to dominate Super Bowl advertising. Nor do I agree with those who try to convince us that “buzz” is a desirable result of advertising. “Biz” is a measurable result, and buzz without biz is just noise.

Successful advertising is about relevancy. It’s about selling your product. It’s not about some schmo standing at the water cooler on Monday morning saying “Hey, Dude … did you watch the ads on the Super Bowl yesterday?”

I have no problem with those who want to buy Super Bowl ad time. It’s their money. I have a distinct problem with those “creative” types who guide their clients down the wrong path. Creative awards simply don’t equal money in the client’s pocket. Just look at Crispin Porter & Bokusky, known to some as “the hottest” advertising agency in the country. After all, look at what their “killer” creative accomplished for Miller Lite (“Man Laws”) or ConAgra (“Deadenbacher”). Buzz? Maybe. But money losers. And accounts lost for CP&B.

We, as marketers, can’t get caught up in all the hype about the Super Bowl ads. We have an obligation to our clients to do everything we can to show them how to create advertising that works. It may be your client’s money, but if you drop $2 million to $3 million of their cash and don’t generate big business, the consequences could – and should – be grave.

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct LLC



  1. You have a problem with branding?

    Which cash cow of a brand do you resent spending money on “killer creative?” Bud Light, Got Milk?, Nationwide, Mastercard, Dove…?

    Take shots at idiots like GoDaddy, fine. They have no brand (though last time I checked, their lights are still on). But a crapload of insight and strategy goes into a successful brand before the registers start to ring.

    Advertising and sales are different marketing functions for a reason. Sentence branding to the same the rules as direct marketing and you’ll lose all mind-share and only have your pennies to count.

    And finally, something DM will never understand, big rewards require risk. Deadenbacher (Miller Lite was fired, rightfully) was a risk that failed horribly. Fail harder.

  2. Thanks for your response, Marvin.

    Marketing today is about accountability, not branding and unaided awareness. I could be wrong, but poll some recent CMOs who were brand evangelists, if you can find them. I think they last on their jobs 18 months on average.

    I think you may have heard of GEICO, MBNA, Capital One and Victoria’s Secret? How were these brands launched? DM.

    I guess they must not have understood that, as you put it, “Advertising and sales are different marketing functions for a reason. Sentence branding to the same rules as direct marketing and you’ll lose all mind-share and only have your pennies to count.”

    Oreck, Dell, Lands’ End, Sears … should I go on?

    DM has now taken over as the dominant spend in advertising and marketing. And for good reason. It works!

    Grant Johnson

  3. First observation: Marvin Donkey must work in advertising, because you certainly hit a nerve. But branding, advertising, or whatever for the sake of making a splash is just a grand gesture. However, depending on the purpose, if it is part of a well-planned, strategic overall plan, then it does have a place. The problem is that Super Bowl ads seem to have taken on a life of their own, to the point where they are no longer effective as ads because they’ve become entertainment. I’ve made a similar point in my most recent blog (I hope) about publicity, one of the many tools in the PR exec’s toolbox – and since I took your name in vain in the post, I thought I’d better make sure to let you know I tend to agree with you.

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