Super Bowl Ads Sell Out, at What Cost?

superbowl advertisements ronn torossian


Turns out, the Super Bowl might be okay after all. I’m not talking about the game. That will be entertaining, I’m sure. But the commercials are often the longer-lasting points of discussion when it comes to the biggest game night of the year, with all of America tuning in for the season-ending championship. With the current economy, the decreasing viewership of major broadcast television and the shifting of ad dollars into the social media marketplace, there was a good amount of concern over CBS’s ability to maintain the advertising tradition.

Today, however, CBS has announced that it did sell all the ad spots for the Super Bowl, reports the Los Angeles Times. More importantly, CBS was able to hold steady to its pricing, which ran brands $2.5 – $3 million for a 30-second spot. There are still pregame ad spots available, but those during the game have all been scooped up.

It looks as though all is well for CBS and the Super Bowl, despite certain companies making the world well aware of their move away from Super Bowl ads. Large automobile manufacturers such as GM have been forthright about their decision to forgo TV advertising in lieu of socially integrated ads online and on mobile networks. So if a number of big-name brands have denounced their desire to shell out big bucks for high-priced Super Bowl ads, who’s taking their places?

Dockers, for one. A newcomer in the Super Bowl ad space, Dockers is one of several companies that is taking advantage of the ad-spot availability to finally enter the realm of advertising fame. Other special interest groups have also benefited from CBS’s apparent need to be less selective this year, including an evangelical group that’s running a controversial antiabortion ad. The spot includes a heavily-debated clip from football star Tim Tebow.

Instead of squelching the controversy over CBS’s ability to fulfill its advertising duties, the broadcast network may have made things worse. In ignoring some of the policies set forth for determining acceptable ad content for spots run during the big game, CBS may be opening an entirely new can of worms.

Accepting the ad for a religious group while banning those that portray homosexuality is yet another major point of debate for advocacy groups. Determining who can and cannot be represented during the Super Bowl is a treacherous process, and changing those standards merely reflects the evolution of our media consumption these days.

The diminishing viewership of regular television has led broadcasters and other content providers to do a lot of things they wouldn’t have done a decade ago. Creating content specifically for online distribution or coming up with increasingly outrageous story lines are only a couple of the effects we’ve seen from creative and desperate producers. Consumer-centric distribution methods have forged partnerships between Apple and the likes of CBS.

After this year’s Super Bowl game and ad spots, we’ll have a much better idea of how advertising and television still correlate to each other for large scale events. Looking at the concessions CBS had to make in order to fill the Super Bowl ad spots this year, content providers and advertisers alike will spend reassessing their relationship to each other.

The silver lining is the fact that many users of social media outlets are finding better ways of utilizing those online and mobile networks for congregating (virtually) around a given media event. The Presidential Inauguration and the Grammy’s all raked in high levels of related activity on sites like Facebook and Twitter. This indicates that content providers should continue to find better ways to incorporate their programming with these social media outlets. In the end, we’re still likely to see the relationship between advertisers and major broadcasters continue, just in the online realm.

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