Economy no match for Super Bowl ads

Daniel D'Altorio

When action pauses on the gridiron battlefield, corporate America goes to war in the branding spectacle of Super Bowl advertisements.

This year, companies shelled out $100,000 per-second to feature their ads during the big game, according to, hoping to captivate and capitalize on the 100-million-strong viewing audience.

In the midst of what Bob Garfield, a critic for Advertising Age, calls a “dust bowl economy,” this steep investment in airtime is a gamble, yielding no predictable return on investment for the companies that dolled out the cash.

Only time will tell if the investments were worth it. But in the meantime, members of the Kent State community weigh in on which ads worked and which fell short during Super Bowl XLIII.

The talking baby is back for a second round, and this time he brought a friend to help him discuss the ease of online trading. In the excitement, one infant couldn’t contain the urge to flex his “golden pipes.”

But are the babies hitting the right notes with consumers this time around?

“The talking babies seemed off,” associate advertising professor Frances Collins said.

She said the quality of the commercial was poor, especially for the multi-million dollar cost to produce and air it.

George Stevens, emeritus dean of the College of Business Administration, said E-trade’s inability to change its approach to advertising reflects negatively on the company’s image.

“The market is changing, so the thinking needs to change,” Stevens said.

He said during drastic changes in the business environment, who is delivering the message and how it is being delivered needs to be considered and questioned if babies are the right way for E-trade to market its service.


Budweiser and Bud Light racked up four and a half minutes of commercial time during the Super Bowl at a cost of $100,000 per second, a huge outflow for the company’s ad budget. And that’s excluding the cost of producing and filming the commercials.

Collins had a mixed review of this hefty investment, saying the Bud Light commercials, especially the ones featuring Conan O’Brian were “dumb.”

“The Budweiser Clydesdales were fun,” Collins said. “They showed human characteristics and emotions.”

Andrew Hampp, Kent State alumnus and writer for Advertising Age, said this hefty spending on advertising emphasizes Anheuser-Busch’s status as a top brand in the beer category.

Ed McMahon, who is in financial trouble, and MC Hammer, who almost had his home foreclosed on, were both featured in the ad.

Advertising Age predicts this commercial will be the most successful ad of the Super Bowl in terms of return on investment.

Apparently, the European-based RSCG Edge and Arnold, owners of, thought employing once-famous personalities to be the perfect hook for their Super Bowl ad campaign.

“Companies will look for a hook,” Stevens said. “This creates association and familiarity with the product.”


Denny’s restaurants used a call-to-action approach for its ad campaign.

Today, from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., mentioning the Super Bowl Denny’s ad at any location will yield a free Grand Slam breakfast.

Three college guys sit around a computer monitor in a dorm room, staring at race car driver Danica Patrick disrobing and entering a hot shower. As she showers, another female pops into the shot, only to be cut off by this prompt, “Continued at, Web site content unrated.”

Hampp said that from the time GoDaddy’s ads aired during the Super Bowl, the company broke all its previous records for same-day sales.

This is the most quantifiable instance of success for a Super Bowl ad, Hampp said.

And it reaffirms the common notion that sex, and humor, sells, he said.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Darren D’Altorio at [email protected].