January 29, 2015

Talking Super Bowl Commercials with Steve Merino

Someone's excited for the Super Bowl commercials! Settle down, Steve.

Someone’s excited for the Super Bowl commercials! Settle down, Steve.

Who’s ready for the Super Bowl … commercials? Our team has plenty to say about Sunday’s big ads. So our Steve Merino put on his best radio voice and joined Phil Feliceangeli on WDOV/WILM. From babies on roller skates to talking horses, here was Steve’s take:

There are folks who just watch for the commercials themselves. Why are these commercials so enticing?

Steve: I think a lot of time people aren’t necessarily interested in the game. I mean, as an Eagles fan I have a hard time rooting for either the Patriots or Seattle so I’m kind of rooting for the commercials myself. The other reason why they’re so important is, there’s 60 minutes in the game and there are 40 minutes of advertising. So the maximum amount of time you are watching both is almost the same.

Do ad agencies and sponsors kind of try to outdo each other or work extra hard on this knowing that there are a lot more people watching of the commercials?

Steve: There is no doubt about that. Everything about the Super Bowl is over the top—the production, the amount of viewers. More than 115 million people are watching, so the production value of the spots has to match that. You are going to see celebrities, talking babies, talking horses, talking babies on top of talking horses. Really, it’s whoever can capture those 30 seconds the best is usually the one who wins the day.

Some Super Bowl commercials are memorable; some we kind of forget. What makes a good Super Bowl commercial?

Steve: Can you make an emotional connection? And can you break through that clutter? Sometimes you can do that by doing something over the top  — by doing something no one has ever done — a roller skating baby — no one had ever tried that in terms of a CGI effect. Sometimes it is really the power of emotion. Budweiser has won time and time again with a spot that really touches people’s heart strings. It has very little to do with the brand – very little to do with the product. But you feel really good about what you are seeing; then they put the logo at the end and I feel really good about that particular brand.

Do the Super Bowl ads generally mean increased revenue, increased purchases and sales for that particular product?

Steve: That’s a great question. That’s the one that people have the hardest time justifying. 4.5 million dollars for 30 seconds is a lot of money. So, if you can afford that, you most likely have enough money that you can sustain. You’ll have a 100 million dollar ad budget throughout the year. If you’re going to drop 4.5 million, you want to see some return. And if you don’t have as much money, you probably wouldn’t spend it all on this one particular buy. If you think of your ad year as a line running across the screen, the Super Bowl is a big spike. So really what clients and brands are looking for is how can they extend that. A lot of times, they are doing things like a build up to it. Doritos has used this strategy for years. They say, “Upload the ad that could be running during the Super Bowl.” They build the hype, launch the ad and then say, “See the spots that didn’t run.” Even though the ad is only running for 30 seconds, they get as much shelf life as they possibly can. That is how they justify the dollars spent.

Do some sponsors know, “Okay, we’re not really going to make a whole lot of money out of this, but being on the Super Bowl is a status symbol?”

Steve: Definitely. There is a prestige. There is a cache. If you are on during the game, you are basically announcing to the world, to your competition: We’re are a player. There’s definitely that going on. It’s an ego thing.

The popularity of the commercials themselves. This Sunday, leading up to the Super Bowl, there is even a program itself on the top Super Bowl commercials of all time.

Steve: Exactly. Like I said, there is the game and then there’s the show. And because there is so much stuff going on here, you can actually start to market these things because there is enough content that you can support a top 20 list, top 100 list, top 100 of all-time list. So, the networks themselves have found out a way to be able to market this secondary product.

Do we know when the Super Bowl commercials became popular? I’m sure the commercials in Super Bowls 1, 2 and 3 were not as glitzy nor as popular as those seen today.

Steve: During the first Super Bowl, they had two marching bands performing during halftime. It has incrementally grown every single year. Each year is bigger than the year before it. The price has increased $500,000, which is 12.5% more than it was last year. In 1999, you started to see all the Budweiser things and all of a sudden social media started to make a crossover. So really it hasn’t been one particular year where it launched, but there have been certain things like the 1984 Apple ad. You know that was a big moment, but there have been big moments every single year and it just continues to build.