Why E*Trade and other advertisers may find the Super Bowl a bargain

It's well known that the Super Bowl isn't cheap, even with this year's price decline for a 30-second spot. But even at prices as low as $2.5 million -- compared with 2009's record $3 million price tag -- corporations have been debating whether the purchase pays off with higher sales and brand awareness.

While some marketers such as PepsiCo have begged off this year, citing the recession, others such as E*Trade are sticking with the game, historically one of the highest rated television programs each year.
And their choice may prove insightful. That's because Super Bowl commercials have proved to result in immediate sales lifts and may be as valuable as 250 normal TV ads, according to Advertising Age, which cites research from brand strategy-firm Millward Brown Optimor.

For E*Trade, which will air an ad featuring its popular talking baby during the Feb. 7 game, the results from its Super Bowl ad last year were striking. About 19 million people visited its Web site to see ad outtakes, while online applications jumped 19% in the week after the game, AdAge reports. (Still, E*Trade is changing one thing about its Super Bowl ad: this year will feature a new baby, after the first talking baby grew too big for the role.)

Super Bowl advertisers today are helped by technology in a way that was impossible a decade or more ago. In 1984, for instance, when Apple aired its famous Macintosh ad, consumers had no way of replaying, e-mailing or sharing their favorite ads.

This year, according to advertising firm Venables Bell & Partners, 41% of Americans will rewatch the ads online. And more than a quarter of consumers will send friends their favorite ads through e-mail or social networking sites, Venables says.

While some advertisers will sit out this year, the longer life-span of a Super Bowl ad has attracted newbies to the game, such as video-game maker Electronic Arts and HomeAway, a vacation rental service, according to TNS Media.

And for a company that's not yet a household name, the $2.5 million price tag can be a relatively quick and cost-efficient way of getting its name out to consumers.

Yet that can also backfire, points out the Wall Street Journal. Remember the 2000 Super Bowl, chock full of money-flush dot-coms? Many of those advertisers found a Super Bowl ad didn't help them weather the dot-com bust.
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