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Panel not sure if Super Bowl ads are worth it

Advertisers considering a Super Bowl commercial may want to think twice before shelling out $85,000 for each second of television broadcast time.
/ Source: Reuters

Advertisers considering a Super Bowl commercial may want to think twice before shelling out $85,000 for each second of television broadcast time.

A panel of advertising experts broadly agreed Wednesday that running a 30-second commercial during the biggest single U.S. sporting event of the year has become too costly for most marketers.

“It’s a much, much bigger risk than it is reward pay-out,” Julie Roehm, the former communication’s chief at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York.

To make the multi-million dollar commercials worthwhile, marketers need to look to tie-in advertisements, such as using the same character or theme on an Internet campaign.

“It’s not worth it if you just look at the numbers,” said Jon Bond, Co-Chairman of advertising agency Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners. “You’ve got to have something I’ll call the ’X factor’.”

He pointed to ads for products, such as beer and pizza, that are consumed during the game and may see an immediate sales boost.

“You never have more guys sitting around on a couch than during the Super Bowl,” he added.

This year, Super Bowl XLI airs Feb. 4 on CBS and is expected to attract some 90 million viewers. But costs rise every year and this time around, marketers have paid up to $2.6 million for a 30-second spot.

Joann Ross, president of network sales for CBS, said more than 25 marketers have signed up for TV spots and talks are ongoing for more commercial time during the game, which pits the Indianapolis Colts against the Chicago Bears.

“The Super Bowl is the one event where people do pay ... more attention to the commercials,” she said. “The recall of the commercials is greater than spots that don’t run in the Super Bowl.”

Ryan Schinman, CEO of Platinum-Rye Entertainment agreed.

“I look at the Super Bowl as a big, almost, premier,” Schinman said. “The Super Bowl, like the Academy Awards, is something special.”

The panelists maintained one of the chief problems with Super Bowl commercials was that it was difficult to judge whether or not they had an impact consumer behavior.

“The biggest issue is not for us to sit here and debate whether it’s worth it or not,” said Dmitry Shapiro, CEO of VEOH Networks. “The biggest problem is nobody knows.”

Roehm agreed it was very difficult to judge whether the millions that marketers spend on a commercial actually leads to brand recognition or sales.

“You really can’t correlate for sure,” she said. “You gamble everything. That’s a big bet for a 30-second spot.”

Comedian Mo Rocca said the only way to gauge whether the money was well spent was by putting the cost of an $85,000 per second advertisement in context.

For instance, Rocca joked, the war in Iraq is costing about $3,086 each second, a New York City psychotherapist costs about 11 cents per second and Marlon Brando was paid about $23,333 for each second he appeared in Superman.

Pointing to another example, Rocca said figures showed one particular female escort in New York costs about 43 cents per second.

“I got that from the NFL’s players union,” he added.