As the 50th Super Bowl approaches with the usual reports from the advertising industry of record high ad spend–up to $5 million for 30 seconds of glory–we start to see brands making emotional decisions based on vanity to get in front of a large national audience instead of making business decisions based on ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) and strategy. The question is asked every year by folks like us…is it worth the spend? (See our previous posts on the topic here and here)

Not that digital advertising doesn’t have it’s “Shiny New Object” problems to contend with when it comes to ways to waste ad dollars. Sometimes these tactics can lead to costs just as disproportionate in hopes to reach millennials or hyper target an audience (Snapchat charging $750k for 24h). Advertising agencies contribute to this buzz that the Super Bowl commercial is worth the premium. You know why? Because producing a Super Bowl ad is a great chance to win an industry award, get industry press for the agency and spend lots and lots of money to earn client commissions on. Just like the network earns a lot of money from the placement of the ad. Nice work if you can get it!

So is spending large sums of ad dollars on single tactics a good investment? Most likely not. It is key to look past the ‘buzz.’ In the case of the Super Bowl, certain brands can effectively lift awareness and reach a very diverse audience with last year’s $3 per viewer fitting within budget. However, depending on a single spot to change opinions and/or spending over 30-40% percent of an annual advertising budget is hard to justify.  Especially when we know the measurable results of digital that offers much more affordable opportunities to reach tens of millions of targeted audiences for the same budgets.


When we talk about digital, it encompasses many different advertising opportunities. The key to finding the right opportunity is working with a strategic partner. I’m not saying there isn’t room for TV. TV still outpaces everything in time spent and number of eyeballs. But, I am saying that spending budgets of your clients for media should be carefully considered for ROI and meeting sales performance goals versus the seduction of getting industry press for your brilliant creative idea that’s more a vanity play than a measurable influence on your corporate performance.

With digital we often talk about measurement and analytics, which give us results for our clients they can literally take to the bank.

Effective digital can actually be measured and can reach specific and appropriate audiences leading to measurable returns. Digital is not the end all, be all but it sure is taking over the industry with its effectiveness. Spending on single tactics both traditionally and digitally becomes more unwarranted. No one would say put all your eggs in one basket for anything, especially if all your ad dollar eggs go to a 30 second spot in one football game. If your advertising budget is $50 million a year then have at it, but if not, consider multiplying your reach ten or hundred fold with digital.

AdWeek even released a recent article of how the money spent on Super Bowl ads could be spent digitally. 

Some highlights:

  • marketers could buy 2.1 million mobile app installs—the equivalent of 55 million clicks—for a $5 million TV spot.
  • the TV investment translates into as many as 15 million search clicks…’between one-half and three-quarters of a billion search ad impressions’
  • At $475,000, brands could buy 10-and-a-half [Instagram] campaigns for the price of a Super Bowl ad.
  • brands could run 100 campaigns priced at $50,000 each or 200 for $25,000 each