Some people think of this when it comes to the Super Bowl. Others think of that. The statistics also show this: almost half of people only watch the Super Bowl because of the advertising. What makes Super Bowl commercials so popular?
We ventured into the American advertising jungle, looked through tons of spots and analyzed them with an advertising psychologist. So we take a look behind the scenes of the most expensive advertising seconds in the world.
A 30-second commercial costs $7 million during the Super Bowl. In comparison: During the 2018 World Cup final, 30 seconds on SRF cost around 60,000 Swiss francs. Already a high price for Switzerland.
Check out this graphic: Super Bowl advertising wasn’t always this expensive. Initially, 30 seconds of advertising cost $383,000 adjusted for inflation. Advertising was already part of the first Super Bowl in 1967, but it still didn’t have as much cult status as it does today.
Quick note: If you watch a German-language Super Bowl broadcast, you will see a different commercial block than on American television. If you want to see the “real” Super Bowl commercials, you can tune in via internet stream or watch them online the next day.
The Super Bowl is now becoming more and more like an unofficial national holiday. Another highlight of the mega event is the halftime show, with performances by well-known musicians. Never again in the year do so many people in the USA turn on the television as on the second Sunday in February. In 2023, 115 million watched. That’s almost one and a half times as many people as live in Germany. This rate was only topped by the moon landing.
During the Super Bowl, the probability that the commercial will be watched is very high. That’s why companies are willing to pay so much for one of the 70 advertising slots. With an event like this you can once again focus attention on the advertising itself, which is no longer the case. The Super Bowl is like the pinnacle of advertising. If I didn’t see the advert, I might have missed something and will no longer be part of the group. I can’t join in the discussion.
But what does it take for a successful Super Bowl advertisement? We looked at the most popular spots of recent years and derived some design elements from them. Introducing our Super Bowl advertising formula.
“Hey Google, show me photos of me and Loretta.” The story told plays an important role. You have to feel something when you look. For example, this advertisement tells the touching story of a grandpa who uses Google to reminisce with his wife.
95% of our decisions are based on emotional decisions. That means they are not rational. And I believe that it is precisely this decision-making potential that advertising tries to address with as many emotions as possible.
«America, America. God bless you.” Patriotism and feelings of community are also popular ways to inject emotion into advertising.
So that we are financially prepared for anything. And to being single and being willing to change that. It has been shown that emotional advertising leads to more purchasing behavior than when a product is advertised with facts. When you combine it, it’s mediocre. It sells best when only emotions are sold.
If the story itself doesn’t have enough effect, the whole thing can be spiced up with superlative celebrity guests, such as Elton John, Taylor Swift or Sylvester Stallone.
This is where the so-called halo effect comes into play. It is there to transfer attributes of a person to the product. Example: A person is very serious. Then you try to advertise to that person and then the product appears more reputable.
Pop culture is quoted particularly often. These can be classics like the horror film “Shining”. Or TV series like “Breaking Bad”. In order to intensify the feelings you feel when watching the advertisement, the right music is also crucial. Humans have limited attention. And that is, for example, split into visual and auditory. This means that if I see an emotion visually and it is underlined musically, I have twice the input that I can process.
Songs that the audience already knows are particularly popular. Which can of course be perfectly combined with a pop culture quote.
If a brand manages to combine music with a brand, then of course it helps to anchor it differently, emotionally in memory. And that helps to sell more.
If all creative approaches fail, certain advertisements still rely on the well-known “sex sells”. This rather unoriginal solution is no longer used as often.
«“Sex sells” probably works rather poorly than well. There are various studies that have been done. The example with ads that have a sexual context. Men clicked more, but in the end much less was purchased, and women clicked even less. And what also becomes apparent is that offensive advertising is increasingly no longer used because it simply poses too high a risk for companies to get caught up in a shitstorm.
With a combination of these elements and a gigantic production budget, nothing stands in the way of a successful Super Bowl advertisement. This cult status made the Super Bowl more political. Here, for example, with a Donald Trump 2020 campaign spot.
One of Trump’s opponents at the time, Mike Bloomberg, also ran an advertisement in the same year. In the spot, American gun laws are sharply criticized with an emotional story. Audiences are rarely changed by political advertising.
The main effect of political advertising is to reinforce already held opinions. That means it doesn’t change or change my mind, but it does make me more likely to vote.
The media also plays a very important role in the Super Bowl. The more it is reported, the more it is read. The more people read, the more the media writes about it – from which they also benefit. The most expensive advertising seconds in the world are a good investment for companies.
Because where else do you voluntarily watch advertising?