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Super Bowl Ads: Being Remembered Is All That Matters

By Karl Avard – Feb 5, 2014 at 3:35PM

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Is dropping $4 million on a 30-second commercial a worthy investment?

This past Sunday night, the country came together again for our unofficial national holiday: Super Bowl XLVIII. This year, the championship game was expected to be watched by roughly 110 million people across the U.S. It ended up breaking the record for the most watched Super Bowl -- or program of any kind in the U.S. -- in TV history. It broke the record of 111.3 million viewers set by the 2012 Super Bowl, with an average of 111.5 million people. The ratings peaked right before halftime and throughout the halftime performance, cresting at 115.3 million people.

Ever since this iconic commercial from Apple (AAPL -1.96%) back in 1984, companies have striven to be that one commercial that is shown only once during the Super Bowl, but generates a large amount of praise, publicity, and sales. This year, companies put up an average of $4 million per 30-second slot during the event. The total ad revenue for the nearly 50 commercials that aired during game approached $300 million, according to Fox Network.

This year, Anheuser-Busch's (BUD 0.37%) Budweiser commercial involving the iconic Clydesdale horses and a cute golden retriever puppy was awarded the Best Super Bowl Commercial by the respected USA Today panel, composed of 6,272 consumer panelists from across the country. This is the 12th time in the past 14 years that Anheuser-Busch has won the award.

There's plenty of talk about which ads were the best or worst, how-to's for making the best Super Bowl commercials, and just fun facts about them in general. This is all well and good, but according the market-research firm Db5, much of this is irrelevant because this massive audience has already forgotten the vast majority of these commercials.

What commercials?

This firm took a survey of 504 audience respondents for Bloomberg Businessweek and found that the majority remembered less than 10% of Sunday's commercials. Many of the other results that were found from the collected data are surprising, and certainly not positive for the majority of those companies who purchased advertising time.

Those surveyed were asked to list as many companies as they could that had commercials during the Super Bowl on Sunday, and the response was 5.4 firms. Worse, only 12 companies of the roughly 50 that appeared were remembered by more than 10% of the surveyed. Even after the respondents were given a list of advertisers and asked which they remembered seeing ads for, only about half of those ads were recalled.

In addition, the report also found no correlation between what many would expect would improve retention of the ads shown: advanced viewings that give the audience more chances to remember the spot, and an ad being released online in advance.

The most commonly remembered companies were strongly correlated with those that have been buying time during the game year after year, such as soft drink distributors Coca-Cola (KO 0.10%) and PepsiCo (PEP -0.52%), Budweiser, and Internet website hosting company GoDaddy.

Regardless of whether they were seen as good or bad advertisements, those companies were remembered. When it comes down to it, this is what matters. In this day and age, it is difficult to reach such a large audience at once through one channel. The Super Bowl is an excellent platform for advertising, but companies need to focus on what makes a commercial memorable in the long term. While funny commercials or ones that feature a large number of guest stars or gimmicks may be what customers laugh at in the moment, it seems that the more promising are those that really touch consumers at their core.

Those companies that are more remembered, while already having exceptional market penetration that is certainly a contributing factor, focus in general on making their ads more heartfelt. This ultimately makes their investment worthwhile and successful in the long term.

Karl Avard has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Apple Stock Quote
$148.11 (-1.96%) $-2.96
Coca-Cola Stock Quote
$62.69 (0.10%) $0.06
PepsiCo Inc. Stock Quote
PepsiCo Inc.
$184.11 (-0.52%) $0.97
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV Stock Quote
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV
$56.59 (0.37%) $0.21

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