February 4, 2011
By Antony Young, 02.04.11, 06:00 AM EST
Fox television executives celebrated with high fives when this year’s Super Bowl sold out in October, commanding ad rates that seemed to defy gravity. (Commercial slots in the Feb. 6 game sold for $3 million apiece.) But wait a minute: Wasn’t the 30-second television spot meant to be dead and buried? This is 2011 after all, a time when Google, smartphones and social media sites are making big-brand TV ads seem as dated as Duran Duran and shoulder pads in women’s suits.
Despite the new media onslaught, the Super Bowl has reinvented itself to be even more relevant and valuable as an advertising platform for today’s marketers. Mercedes Benz and Best Buy are entering the Super Bowl for the first time this year. Perennial Super Bowl advertiser Pepsi, which made a big splash last year by forgoing its regular slots in favor of a social media style philanthropy campaign–its Pepsi Refresh Project–is returning. And while Google last year surprised everyone with its Parisian Love spot, 2011′s digital media darling is deals site Groupon. The latter announced Wednesday that it was taking out an actual Super Bowl–and not pre-game–ad buy, as was originally intended.
It used to be that the Super Bowl was considered a “vanity buy” by many marketers. Big-budget ads and highly creative productions were part of an agency’s showcase for creative awards and brownie points for a CMO’s résumé. But the recession has all but extinguished such luxuries with marketers looking beyond a mention on USA Today’s annual Super Bowl Ad Meter. Yet advertisers are putting the Super Bowl back at the top of their buy list.