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  • Priya Thoren, Opinions Editor

Opinion: Super Bowl ads need to change to retain consumer interest

Art by Eli Fukuji.

The 2024 Super Bowl took place on Sunday, Feb. 11, with the iconic National Football League event having occurred since 1966. Avid football fans are the presumed target audience, with months of built-up anticipation and hopeful rooting for their respective teams. But what about the other set of individuals, those who aren’t there for the game or for the snacks, but for the ads? Super Bowl ads have been renowned for the unique, creative and never-before-seen qualities they bring to the screen, allowing for a quick break between the apprehensive gameplay. Recently, however, Super Bowl ads have been feeling more like a prime bathroom break opportunity. By the start of 2024 consumers have already seen the ad campaigns, so to retain customer interest, companies need to return to the mystique of past years. If they can't do that, they need to think of new tactics to match the marketing considerations of 2024. 

As streaming services become more popular, it may be difficult to remember the days of constant commercials running on the TV. Part of the antagonism towards commercials stems from their repetitive nature. So what made the Super Bowl different for so long? The Super Bowl used to be the launch party for a new ad campaign. Now, Super Bowl ads are being pre-teased, explained Contributing Assistant Professor at Atkinson Graduate School of Management Christopher Susen. For the past 25 years, Susen has held positions in product and retail marketing, marketing operations and strategy, and digital and social media marketing with companies such as Nike and Google. Susen has garnered a wide spread of firsthand marketing experience, making his input on the Super Bowl valuable. 

“Companies are releasing [Super Bowl ads] before the Super Bowl, and so people are going into the Super Bowl itself having seen or felt the ads. There’s far less mystique around the ads …. I like experiencing the ads for the first time in the Super Bowl,” said Susen. 

The rising widespread usage of streaming services means that the importance of Super Bowl ads is at a higher level than it has been in the past. Less public consumption of commercials equates to fewer outlets for companies to display their advertisements. “[The Super Bowl] is the Academy Awards for ads. It is what companies scrimp and save for,” said Susen. “[Consumers] are absolutely consuming sports advertising because they're watching a game, and they don't want to watch it on tape delay. The other types of live shows include the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the live award show type deals … Those are the two that consumers are actively watching the ads for.” 

The added pressure means that companies have to stop and think about how they need to appeal to audiences. It is easy to hypothesize that Super Bowl ads are becoming shorter in length due to the decreasing attention spans of individuals. However, the data suggests otherwise — companies in 2023 overwhelmingly decided to pursue 60 and 90-second ads, according to Susen. These in-depth storytelling ads go hand-in-hand with broad awareness. Companies should maintain a balance of impacting the minds and feelings of consumers while still putting out memorable content. 

“[Companies] have a Super Bowl ad, and [they] know that a bazillion people are going to see it, and they’re going to see it during the game. So awareness is really big. But what I saw last year is that consideration is a much bigger thing. And when I say consideration, I mean when I say ‘Volvo,’ you think safety. When I say ‘Porsche,’ you think fast,” Susen shared. “You're already aware of the company, the product, the brand, the service — now, they want you to feel a certain way about them. … It costs [companies] $14 million to have their attention for a full minute, but [they] have [audience’s] rapt attention.” This trend of consideration will hopefully continue into the 2024 premiere of the game. A good hook is vital to getting a reaction from an audience. 

Despite the amount of ads appearing to fall short with many audiences, there are some companies that have produced outside-of-the-box ads. Coinbase, a cryptocurrency company, displayed an ad in 2022 that was a full minute of a QR code moving around a black screen in silence. This is just one example of unconventional advertising tactics that are beginning to emerge. Super Bowl ads need to return to the roots of what made them iconic, the unforgettable qualities that made audiences discuss them for days after they premiered. 

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