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Today, despite the massive increase it would mean in terms of my personal revenue stream, I am glad I am not the Senior VP of Marketing at Pepsi. Why? Two basic facts:

  1. It seems the Super Bowl was the most watched TV show ever.
  2. There was not one Pepsi ad during the telecast.

When Pepsi’s decision to forego advertising during the biggest game was announced awhile back all the social media “evangelists” went nuts, proclaiming validation for their theories re the demise of TV ads. It seems they – as well as Pepsi – were just a little nutty.

The large Super Bowl viewership does not mean that the nonsense re the death of the 30 second TV spot will subside. However, it speaks to the fact that though we may now be more likely to tune out or mistrust advertising it still matters and will for a hell of a long time.

This is because most marketers rightly salivate over the chance to run an ad when over 100 million folks are watching something. When the current fascination with social media dies down a bit we’ll see that it – like email marketing – will rightly be viewed as just another channel. An important one to be sure but still an arrow in the quiver just like paid TV ads, PR, guerrilla initiatives etc. Not as the panacea some claim it is.

Is there some easily measurable ROI on Super Bowl ads? Are they really even that effective? I don’t know, and neither does anyone. But I still would not want to be the Pepsi SVP Marketing today; over 100 million people did not have ads about a darkly coloured soda hurled at them. Somebody is gonna catch shit for that. Maybe somebody SHOULD.

The thirty second spot isn’t dead. Too many people still watch broadcast programs on big networks. Is the game changing? Of course. But I have a sneaking suspicion folks like this very bright lady will still have good jobs producing creative at agencies for a long time.

UPDATE: The eMarketer blog has an interesting post on the Pepsi question. Worth a read.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Danny Starr says:

    I don’t really think Pepsi should be kicking themselves because there were a few things that really hit me this year:

    1) Seems like advertisers got bonuses on airtime… Doritos had ads at almost every break. I bet they had a buy two, get a third free thing going. So it seems like selling airtime might have an issue.

    2) There were a bunch of ads for CBS shows. I bet some unsold time went into cementing their lead over NBC. And it might have also been an issue selling airtime so they crammed their own stuff on there. And we can talk about why Jay Leno was in an ad for Letterman? Isn’t he on NBC?

    3) The ads themselves sucked. I wasn’t really blown away by many of the ads, some funny ones here and there but by in large, it seems everyone is talking about a Google ad that I believe I missed in the live broadcast so I could hit the bathroom (funny side story is that my twitter feed lit up about it so that’s how I know I missed it). That ad had been running on youtube for months according to some reports, so it seems they played it safe. Even Google with their pile of cash the size of my gut couldn’t open the wallet for some serious ad space.

    4) As much as I watch social media with a cynical eye, seems like what I think were pretty boring ads generated a tonne of chatter on social media networks. So maybe people should use TV to spark conversations online….

    I don’t really think TV advertising is going away just yet but I don’t think the SuperBowl really did much to give it some extra time on this earth.

    Pepsi’s larger strategy and one that I believe the money they saved on SuperBowl ads seems to be about giving their money back to people by funding community projects and the like (I have seen ads for that around).

    This hits two big things you see companies doing MORE of these days… 1) Giving back and 2) Make people feel good by touching their lives and genuinely improving their situations.

    I think that has more resonance than some idiot in a Samurai costume made of Doritos but who cares as carbonate soft drinks will kill ya anyways 😉 I have a diet coke habit I’m trying to kill and believe me, it’s what is in that stuff that is making it hard my friend, not the commercials…

  • Thanks for the insightful comment Dan. Some food for thought. I still think that for a firm of Pepsi’s size and resources, faced with the competitive landscape it confronts, a presence in front of over 100 million peeps should not be passed up. Your pt about reactions to ads in social spaces is interesting and I think speaks to the ongoing (at least for now) connectivity between old and new media.

  • danny says:

    So I saw this in my reader feed today and it made me think of this conversation. Granted, it is measured by twitter chatter but still… it ranks the top brands in terms of chatter post superbowl… and Pepsi’s competition, Coke, isn’t even in the top 10… granted this changes but still, check it out.

    Also, in general, I’m just hearing lots of industry chatter that in general, they came up really lame in terms of creative this year at the SB.

    So what’s the point of getting in front of 100 million eyes if you come up lame and get nothing out of it.

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