Ad (Super) Bowl Sunday


It’s that time of year again – Super Bowl Sunday – where there is a football game taking place. But we all know the real appeal of this momentous day is the ads. Right? Ok, ok, I own an advertising agency and have been in the business for 46 years now, so I might be a bit biased.

Each year I am asked several times, “what makes the Super Bowl so appealing for advertisers?”. Well, singularly, it has the largest live television audience available to an advertiser and is one of the few remaining TV events where people aren’t skipping the ads. This gives advertisers a large captive audience, which is becoming rarer and rarer, as people are scattered across several streaming services, many of which allow viewers to skip the ads altogether. The platform also offers advertisers the opportunity to do more storytelling in their ads, given they are not constrained by shorter ad formats or fleeting viewer attention. Being able to tell a story, especially an entertaining one, can help brands form stronger emotional bonds with consumers.

But in 2024, is it still worth the cost?

Well, for some, it clearly can be. But the margins for success seem to be getting smaller and smaller. So, is it worth it? Yes, maybe.

To start, consider that today, the most effective ads – those that stand out above the crowd – are visible long before the big game begins and for weeks and even years afterward. In days past, consumers truly tuned in to see “amazing” ads that were airing for the first time during the actual football game, Today however, teasers, trailers and sometimes the full ads themselves are typically released in the weeks prior to the Super Bowl and reviewed on TV, online and across social media.

Coverage also continues after the game, with polls and feature stories ranking which ads worked and which didn’t as Monday morning advertising quarterbacks weigh in. Some of the best Super Bowl ads even take on a life of their own that last long after they first ran. Who can forget the iconic 1980 Coca Cola commercial featuring Pittsburgh’s Mean Joe Greene tossing a young fan his jersey? While the ad originally aired in late 1979, it reached a much broader audience during the game a few months later.

That ad has remained so popular that it was remade as a commercial for Coke Zero 30 years later featuring fellow Steelers player Troy Polamalu. Pre- and post-Super Bowl coverage in recent years often revive them both, as well as other iconic ads – decades later.

But the bad news is that the TV tide has been turning…

Consider the fact that the big four automakers, GoDaddy and other former Super Bowl advertisers are forsaking the big game in 2024. Why? My guess is that Gen Z is not impressed by Super Bowl ads, and complicating the matter is their lack of interest in broadcast TV altogether.

Marketers know TikTok and other social sites are perhaps better platforms for delivering their messages to targeted demographics, and that the return on investment for advertising is far easier to track in these venues. Also, the ad spend is easier to justify – especially considering how often these ads will be shared with family and friends in a matter of seconds with just a few keystrokes.

So, a case could be made that spending the big bucks for a super bowl ad is not worth the risk.

Still, in today’s fractured media landscape, the Super Bowl is a rare event with truly mass appeal. Think about the fact that more than 60% of Americans tuned into last year’s game, according to the NFL. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

In the end, marketing executives have to decide if a mass audience is the right platform for their brand awareness and visibility.

Be sure to tune in next week for 78Madison’s review of the most outstanding super bowl ads from our perspective.

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison

78Madison is a full-service marketing communications firm (advertising agency) located in Winter Springs, Florida, a suburb of Orlando.


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