Top Super Bowl XLIX Ads: Was The $4.5 Million Worth It? Let An Expert Explain!

[T]he hype leading up to Super Bowl XLIX helped NBC produce records numbers for advertisers, according to data that’s currently being released after the New England Patriots beat The Seattle Seahawks 28-24, in a close ending.

Marshawn Lynch’s refusals to speak to media during press conferences. The “De-Flate Gate” scandal. Also, repeated issues with violence and domestic abuse helped keep the NFL front and center the past year. While devouring chicken wings and drinks are some of the extracurricular activities that take place around the Super Bowl, so is judging the advertisements.
This year, prices for a :30 spot during Super Bowl XLIX hit a record high. The average cost for a placement was $4.5 million, and that does not even include the production cost for the ad that usually runs into the seven figures range. According to Forbes, NBC needed to reach 120 million viewers in order to top the value delivered to sponsors in Super Bowl 48, which reached a historic 112 million people.
Of course, the negative, as well as the positive attention the NFL has created this year will pay off generously for the league. Advertisers are shelling out a total of $359 million, just to run commercials during Super Bowl XLIX. The fact that a relatively exciting game between The Patriots and Seahawks helped the game last an extra 40 minutes, surely pleased the league’s sponsors.
Over on Twitter, 28.4 million global Tweets including phrases associated with the game and the halftime show were sent throughout the live telecast. If Twitter’s numbers are an indication of overall social media usage surrounding Super Bowl XLIX, sponsors should be very satisfied.
What exactly constitutes a successful advertising campaign with all of that cash being poured into production and spending for the actual placement? Johns Hopkins University marketing expert Haiyang Yang is an assistant professor on the research faculty of JHU’s Carey Business School.
He recently shared his beliefs on the pros and cons of purchasing time for a Super Bowl commercial.

[H]ow does a company justify the price tag for one of these ads?

Yang Haiyang
Johns Hopkins University marketing expert Haiyang Yang

Haiyang Yang: Whenever firms are making decisions about big advertising events like this, they’re thinking basically about two things. One is to get the company’s or brand’s name out there and build awareness. If we look at who advertises during a Super Bowl, many are new companies or new brands. Super Bowl advertising allows them to be noticed by over 100 million consumers in 30 seconds.
Even if you are an established brand, you want to keep your product in consumers’ “consideration set” when they shop. Super Bowl advertising is one way to remind consumers of your product.
Also, the boost in awareness goes beyond those 30 seconds during the game. Whenever people talk about the ads online or offline after the game, and sometimes even before the game in some cases, the awareness is increased.
Second, Super Bowl advertising is also a tool for firms to create a favorable brand image. Yes, I saw your ad and now know about your brand, but do I like your brand as a result? That’s decided by a number of factors such as whether your ad is well designed, novel, and humorous and whether it meets my expectation of what a Super Bowl ad should be like. Of course, the fact that you’re associating yourself with such a prestigious event gives your brand some credibility. But you will need a great ad to truly benefit from this opportunity to connect with consumers and build a favorable brand image.
Besides those two main reasons for doing an ad, are there others you care to mention?
Yang: There are some auxiliary benefits that people don’t usually take into account when assessing the impact of these ads. For example, Super Bowl ads can influence “inside” the advertising companies themselves, particularly for new companies. Many people tend to favor working for “brand name” firms. The ability to pull off a great Super Bowl ad can help new firms attract and recruit new talent. Also, for those who already work for the firms, they would be motivated by the fact that their company now can do what the most powerful firms do – advertise in the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl advertising may also provide benefit in a business-to-business sense. Even if you are a consumer product company, after seeing your company’s great Super Bowl ad, other firms you interact with, like your suppliers and distributors, could be more interested in doing business with you. After all, you are now famous, and that fame is something that could potentially benefit those other firms as well.

Tivo SuperBowl Infographic
Tivo recently released real time data concerning viewers habits and the best advertisements that ran during Super Bowl XLIX.

So how about the cons? Why would a company not want to advertise during the Super Bowl?
Yang: All advertisers in the Super Bowl face the risk of very high expectations. Just the fact that it’s a Super Bowl ad increases viewers’ expectations of how good it should be. If it isn’t up to that standard, you could end up disappointing the very people you’re trying to impress.
About half of the game’s viewers reportedly tune in just to see the ads, so that raises the stakes for advertisers even more. These are viewers who aren’t just comparing this year’s ads with one another but also with Super Bowl ads from the past, which are some of the best TV commercials ever made. If viewers feel that a company didn’t execute its advertising well, then that can speak to the competency of the company in some consumers’ minds.
Advertisers also face the risk of a public that’s becoming less susceptible to the messaging of the ads, thanks to the abundance of technology and information at our fingerprints. The entire advertising industry is built on the fact that we don’t have perfect information about products. But if I know exactly how an advertised product will perform – because I can look up countless reviews and product-comparison reports online ­– then that changes the game. An ad may have less persuasive power than before. This may be especially true for utilitarian products, like a computer printer, but perhaps less so for products that are more hedonic, more about pleasure, like a beverage. Given that one thing advertising does particularly well is making emotional appeals, hedonic products may benefit from Super Bowl advertising relatively more.
There is also a question of return on investment. Advertising at Super Bowl is expensive. Firms should think about whether they can achieve the same level of brand awareness and build the same brand image through other channels like regular TV programs or online platforms at a lower cost.
Another issue firms need to think about is that when, for example, all the major brands of the same product category advertise during the Super Bowl, assuming that their ads are equally good and that the number of consumers of this category of product is stable, none of the brands might end up benefiting from the huge advertising spending. In such a case, those brands may be more profitable if they all do not advertise.
Finally, we’ve seen various issues recently that have made the NFL a troubled brand, from domestic violence and murder cases to Deflategate. If your brand centers on the value of family or honesty, association with the NFL may sometimes become a liability.
These are the top ads of Super Bowl 2015 according to TIVO, which calculated their numbers using real time data from their viewers. 
1. Budweiser – ‘Lost Dog’ (Song by Sleeping at Last)
2. Joyful Heart Foundation – ‘911 Delivery’
3. Doritos – ‘Middle Seat’
4. Nationwide Insurance – ‘Invisible Mindy Kaling’
5. Supercell: Clash of Clans – ‘Revenge’ Feat with Liam Neeson
6. FIAT 500X – ‘Blue Pill’
7. Snickers – ‘The Brady Bunch’ featuring Danny Trejo
8. Avocados From Mexico – ‘First Draft Ever’
9. Coca-Cola – #MakeItHappy
10. Nissan – ‘With Dad’ (Song by Harry Chapin)