For this year’s Super Bowl, more marketers are benching the standard 30-second spots and paying pricey sums - in some cases more than $7.5 million - to run 60-second commercials during the NFL championship Feb. 3.
Longer commercials are part of a game plan to win the attention and the affection of viewers, including the tens of millions of people who watch the Super Bowl primarily to see the ads. A Harris Interactive study last year found that an estimated 66 percent of women and 45 percent of men watch the big game as much for the ads as the action on the field.
CBS executives say demand has been heavy for commercial time for the upcoming match between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. The majority of ads will continue to be 30-second spots, which have sold for a record-high average of $3.8 million - 7 percent higher than last year’s rate.
A few spots have gone for as much as $4 million, which should help CBS rake in more than $275 million in advertising revenue from the game alone, on top of the millions of additional ad dollars generated during seven hours of pre-game shows.
Demand, advertisers say, is driven by interest. More than 41 million viewers watched the Ravens beat the New England Patriots on Sunday to earn a spot in the Super Bowl, and the big game itself is expected to draw more than 100 million viewers. Last year’s U.S. audience of 111 million people was more than twice the size of any other single event televised in 2012.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and consumer interest is at an all-time high,” said Mike Sheldon, chief executive of ad agency Deutsch LA, which is creating Super Bowl commercials for Volkswagen and Taco Bell.
Last year, the number of 60- and 90-second messages in the Super Bowl surged. Nearly 20 percent of the ads stretched 60 seconds or longer, according to ad tracking firm Kantar Media. Only 10 percent of the ads in 2011 were a minute or longer.
Last year’s most-talked about spot, Chrysler’s two-minute “It’s Half Time in America” with Clint Eastwood, may have encouraged more marketers to think longer this year.
“At the Super Bowl, everyone wants to be blown away,” said Chris Adams, executive creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi LA, which is designing a 60-second ad for Toyota. “One way to do that is by going bigger and longer to have more fun with the storytelling.”
Marketing executives must employ new tactics as the price of the time escalates and as the TV networks cram more spots into the game, said Jon Swallen, Kantar Media’s senior vice president of research.
Last year’s broadcast included more than 47 minutes of commercials, compared with 40 minutes in 2005.
Swallen estimated this year’s game will feature 60 commercial messages, from 30 to 40 advertisers. “That’s a lot of competition,” Swallen said. “The driving force is this desire to break through the clutter and tell a story that holds the attention of viewers.”
Advertisers continue to be torn over whether the big game is worth the cost. This year, major advertisers including General Motors and American Honda Motor Co. put themselves on the sidelines. There won’t be a shortage of cars, however, with nine automakers represented, including Audi, Chrysler, Fiat, Kia, Toyota and VW.
During the past decade, advertisers spent $1.85 billion on commercial time in the Super Bowl, Kantar Media found, and Anheuser-Busch has been the most prolific spender, buying nearly $250 million in Super Bowl time from 2003 to 2012. PepsiCo ranked second with $183 million over the 10 years.
“We do see a very good return on our investment,” Anheuser-Busch’s Chibe said. “The Super Bowl has become almost a national holiday, and it’s a key beer occasion for America.”
Two weeks before kickoff, commercial advertising time was sold out, CBS representatives said.
Nevertheless, said John Bogusz, executive vice president of CBS Sports sales and marketing, “If some advertiser comes to us with an extremely attractive offer, we would find a way to get them in.”