Super Bowl Ads Are Designed To Fuel Mindless Buying

Companies are paying $90,000 per second tonight to get their products before our recession-fearing eyes, and they plan to get their money’s worth. Tonight’s advertisers will use an array of tactics designed with one purpose: motivating us to buy their products.

The Super Bowl is the advertiser’s carpet-bombing run. 140 million Americans—almost half the country—tune into the game at some point. Advertisers expect a massive crowd, and we don’t disappoint. Viewership has remained stable since the Reagan era:Average%20Viewers.jpgBut the cost of the average 30-second slot has skyrocketed to over $2.7 million, almost $90,000 per second.Commercial%20Costs.jpgLast year advertisers paid $2.5 million per slot, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see prices rise to over $3 million next year, vastly outpacing inflation. Advertisers willingly drain their bank accounts because they are able to squeeze value from their investment, which is why Fox sold all but ten ad slots by October.

Advertisers are increasingly using their Super Bowl advertisements to drive integrated ad campaigns that send traffic to their websites or other venues. The goal isn’t to micro-target existing demographics, but to use kitschy gimmicks focusing on brands or products to reel in a broader swath of people.

The prize is what Pete Blackshaw of Nielsen calls “monday morning chatterbacking,” a phrase that makes us want to slit our wrists with a Hello Kitty butter knife. Still, traffic to advertiser’s websites does rise by 50% the day after the game. This year, Fox is trying to drum up added synergy with fellow News Corp property MySpace. Advertisers who buy Super Bowl slots have the option of buying complementing ads—quizzes, trivia, junk like that—on MySpace, which Fox will promote during the game.

Super Bowl ads try to pass themselves off as entertainment. YouTube will highlight cutesy ads, and people will treat them as fresh content. Over a third of us watch the game just for the ads, and may even keep an eye open for one or two in particular. That’s fine. Just remember that you are watching advertising. The goal is not to entertain, but to get you to spend.

Super Bowl 2008 [Ad Age]
(Photo: monstershaq2000)