As the 2018 Super Bowl final stats are tallied and the equipment packed away, viewers are sure to be left with a lasting memory of one of the event’s most competitive and dramatic start-to-finish competitions. The lasting impact of the game within the game – the battle of the Super Bowl ads – and the behaviors they designed to influence, will take much longer to play out.
Despite the lowest ratings for the game telecast since 2009, the Super Bowl’s power as the biggest marketing event of the year is not in jeopardy. An estimated 103.4 million tuned in to the game. There is no bigger stage for advertisers. In today’s multi-media coverage mix, the game averaged 106 million viewers across all platforms.
According to an AdWeek report, NBC set one important Super Bowl record. With ads going for more than $5 million per 30-second spot, the game generated nearly $500 million in ad revenue. Approximately $350 million of this revenue came from in-game advertising. This amounts to more than any media company has ever collected in a single day, says AdWeek.
Just like the Eagles and the Patriots, each advertiser has a playbook. The choices they make are based on extensive scientific analysis of potential viewers like you and me. What they collectively select to put in play can also tend to reflect the mood of the nation. The political tone of last year’s game is a good case in point.
Commentators are having a harder time getting a fix on this year’s mix of ads.
How did commercials become such a main event? It was fittingly Steve Jobs and his now-famous 1984 commercial for the then-new Apple Macintosh, directed by Ridley Scott, started the advertising industry’s escalation of Super Bowl commercials as an event.
Lost in the critique of this year’s commercial offerings was one small 30-second screen pass of significance. It represented Diet Coke’s first Super Bowl ad in 21 years. It is reported the intent of the ad was to modernize and position the brand for a younger audience. It features a young and carefully curated up-and-coming actress speaking directly to the camera and in an oh-so-cool way, advising viewers to drink up because “Life is short.” As a Dow Jones & Company’s MarketWatch report points out, the phrase “Life is short” is usually used in the context of doing something that you know is not exactly good for you, but you do it anyway.
Bob Witeck, founder of Witeck Communications Inc. in Washington, D.C., says the ad emphasizes fizz over facts. It also diverges from a recent strategy emphasizing Diet Coke is healthy and nutritious.
The effects of drinking diet soda have been long debated by experts concerned by the effects of artificial sweeteners. Despite this concern, there remain only a few randomly controlled studies on artificial sweeteners. It is also pointed out what research there is has shown only a correlation to health risks, not causation.
According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nearly half of adults and a quarter of children consume artificial sweeteners each day. Though sales have declined in recent years, Diet Coke remains the third-largest selling soft drink in the market, according to Beverage Digest. This shift in strategy to this new campaign approach may have something to do with the news that in 2017, for the first time in the U.S., bottled water became more popular than soda. According to Ad Age, the revamped Diet Coke campaign has received mixed reviews.
One ad that generated a lot of social media attention and assessment features Matt Damon’s bold promise that if just one percent of those watching the game bought a limited-edition Stella Artois chalice, the money received would help give a clean water supply to someone in the developing world for five years. As Damon’s website points out, billions of people around the world are living without safe water and sanitation.
This is a disturbing fact and a hard concept for people to deal with. Imagine how such a message powerfully and emotionally conveyed to a youngster might be received? It seems when dealing with a mass audience, there is no such thing as child-proofing commercial messaging, even those that are well intended.
Consumer pressure in recent years has caused advertisers to take some steps to make the Big Game friendlier to families. At the same time, numerous viewing guides of family-friendly ads (as well as lists of ads to avoid) are readily available online. It’s not like kids are not catered to during the commercial breaks. Images of puppies, horses and cute kids are an expected part of the advertising mix. The use of humor and other tricks that grab kids’ attention are also there. At the same time, those “I wish they hadn’t seen that” moments remain almost impossible to avoid. The average child sees more than 40,000 commercials a year, and the truth is there is little real control over what children see in commercials aside from the self-policing provided by engaged parents.
Researchers have been looking at how television watching affects children for as long as television has existed. The disturbing fact is clinicians still do not have a clear sense about what impact it actually has on them. If they did, much more of what children are exposed to during the Big Game would be clearly out of bounds.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.