Why Super Bowl Ads Don’t Work

Would you ever consider forking over millions of dollars for an advertisement that barely mentions your product? Of course not. But otherwise shrewd businesspeople do it all the time. The advertising channel we are talking about is television.

Most television advertising is rubbish. And Super Bowl commercials are the worst kind of rubbish – expensive, self-absorbed, and impotent. They are, for the most part, elaborately produced mini-movies, with action-packed plot lines and famous actors and beautiful scenery. We laugh at them. We cry at them. We hold our breath in anticipation. We do everything we do at the movies. But we don’t run out afterward and buy the advertised products. In many cases, we don’t even know what the products are.

This has been confirmed by recent studies. University of Tampa researchers, working with ad agency Brain on Brand, found that a year after watching Super Bowl commercials, most viewers couldn’t remember what products had been promoted. This held true even for those much-talked-about commercials heralded at the time for their originality. In fact, in one case, many subjects thought an ad for FedEx was actually for UPS.

There’s some great buying and selling that occurs in the television industry, but it’s not the selling that’s supposed to take place: between the advertiser and the viewing public. Instead, it’s the buying and selling that occurs between the ad agency and the advertiser.

Super Bowl XLIII is just a few weeks away. How many commercials do you remember from Super Bowl XLII?

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Mary Ellen Tribby

MaryEllen Tribby is a business consultant and coach to entrepreneurs in the information publishing and digital marketing arena. She led Early to Rise from May 2006 to January 2010 as Publisher & CEO. She has also served as President of Weiss Research, managing divisions of Forbes, Globe Communications, Times Mirror Magazines and Crain’s New York Business. She currently heads up The CEO's Edge and WorkingMomsOnly.com.