The biggest game of the year with the highest number of viewers, Super Bowl 50. Fifty years of football champions and product advertisements. The Super Bowl is known as much for its commercial advertising as it is for its football. Whether or not someone tuned into the game for the commercials or the game, the trend of viewers’ preference has dramatically changed, but what’s causing this?
In short, millennials. According to HuffPost/YouGov poll, 26 percent of young Americans said the “best part of the broadcast” is the ads. The NFL is getting a reputation as the “No Fun League” because touchdown celebrations like these
are penalized when every other sport is allowed celebrations like these:
Even golf allows for bigger celebrations. Most players celebrate to get their fans hyped and excited for their teams. Still, one quarter of millennials find pro football to be “boring” while the older generations still prefer the on-field action to advertisements.
However, as one of the largest mass communication opportunities, major brands create entertaining and compelling commercials. The ads are made for “the big game” but fall short of being suitable for any memorable moments past the next day. The NFL and CBS are aware of the large number of viewers for which they charge accordingly. This year, 2016, a 30-second commercial slot hit an all time high at $5 million. The increase in slot advertisement has gotten out of control and some major brands like Gatorade, Reebok, Nike, Ford, and Chevy decided against having an advertisement in this year’s Super Bowl.
Although the price tag of advertisement is extremely high, it’s not likely the reason corporate titans are considering it the deterrent of the “big game,” but because, in part, of the internet-inspired atomization. Super Bowl advertising hitmaker, John Immesoete says, “There’s a lot of other places to spend your money that are more targeted, and a lot of admen like to do it like that.” Immesoete is known for his hit ads for Budweiser and other big name companies. This erosion of big advertisers means the Super Bowl features a shallower pool of creative talent adept in crafting ads that can appeal to multiple generations and demographic groups. Also contributing to the lack of creative talent in advertisements is common household devices with TiVo, DVR, and services like Netflix which make ordinary TV ads easily avoidable.
Companies noticing the trend of ads being passed is a big reason to believe it’s not worth the money to hire and develop talent. To complicate matters, the same social media and 24-hour news cycle have turned advertising into a niche business. This has increased the scrutiny of Super Bowl ads. While the payoffs of good advertisements are positive, with more of the tools needed to achieve that, companies’ desires to invest have diminished and the costs of failure have increased.
“You become a lightning rod for controversy, Immesoete said. “Now the risk is so high, people get cold feet.”
Business professors, Tim Calkin and Derek Rucker, from Northwestern University made similar claims in a HuffPost blog. They noted it’s also hard for a brand to stand out in such a crowded field of competitors. In 2015, there were 71 national spots, not including network and local promo spots. Immesoete still thinks many of the brands sitting out of the big game and those who’ve booked less airtime are making a mistake. There is, however, one brand plenty of people did not miss seeing, GoDaddy, and its commercials. The strange didn’t stay away with GoDaddy, Mountain Dew introduced “Puppy Monkey Baby” and confused a lot of viewers. Even scarred some with an image not to be forgotten anytime soon.
While a lasting effect is ideal for companies, a lot of viewers don’t remember the brand associated with the creature.
With the day-to-day business being affected by the trend set by millennials, the advertising is not playing to a big quality of millennial behavior: nostalgia. Katy Perry figured it out for her halftime performance by bringing back rapper Missy Elliott. Being nostalgic is not exclusive to Super Bowl advertisements, McDonald’s rebooted the hamburglar, Coke brought Surge back and Crystal Pepsi saw shelves again for the first time in 20 years. According to Jamie Gutfreund, CMO at agency Deep Focus, “Nostalgia brings back that lovely, fuzzy feeling about how good things were back in the day.”
People want to relive that feeling and brands know they can trigger those emotions in their consumers. Does anyone remember E*Trade commercials with the baby? How about any of these “greatest” Super Bowl ads?
Nostalgia works, because millennials have a stronger affinity to the sentiment than previous generations. Nostalgia not only evokes better times and a sense of belonging, but also makes younger consumers feel more fashionable. This is not a new tool but perhaps it is a forgotten one. With a majority of the game’s viewers being millennials and the rest being Generation X and baby boomers, advertisers should go back to trends that produced buzz and printed t-shirts. Many viewers tune in for the best TV commercials because this is the one time people want to watch commercials.
However, with the current trend of advertisements becoming less like entertainment and encouragement, and more like sleep aid alternatives, companies may only have another year or two to turn it around. The NFL and CBS should also be concerned because unless there is a change in commercial concepts, viewers may turn the channel to alternatives during a break, like the Puppy Bowl instead of watching the commercials. This will decrease viewer data and make the There is a new trend that is successful: the greater cause. Colgate’s commercial about
“Every Drop Counts” sends the message to preserve water by brushing your teeth with the water off.
Last year, “Like a girl” was a big hit amongst viewers because it empowered women instead of objectifying them.
Coca Cola is one of the largest, most consistent companies to “Share Love. Share a Smile. Share a Coke.” Coke entertains viewers with graphics (including turning bottles of Coke in a vending machine into an animated world) and plays on heart strings.
Who could forget about the polar bears.
The past few Super Bowls have been accompanied by more and more disappointing commercials with only a handful of good ones. Formerly known as the greatest commercials of the year, are beginning to lose their touch…quickly. Millennials are nostalgic with many things and maybe advertisers should follow their lead in remembering “the good ol days.”
Dua, Tanya. “Why Millennials Are Afflicted with ‘early-onset Nostalgia’ – Digiday.” Digiday. Digiday, 14 June 2015. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
Marans, Daniel. “Why Some Top Companies Decided Super Bowl Ads Aren’t Worth It.” Huffington Post. HuffPost Sports, 5 Feb. 2016. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
Spies-Gans, Juliet. “Millennials Are Watching The Super Bowl For The Commercials, Not The Game.” Huffington Post. HuffPost Sports, 4 Feb. 2016. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
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