The Carolina Panthers weren’t the only losers in Super Bowl 50.

Once again, the marketing profession lost!

As football fans and fans of our marketing profession, you may think that we were excited about seeing all of the $500,000+ (add in a million more for production, time, distraction from other client work, etc.) ads.  Well, we were not. We were just hoping for a good close game since our Steelers were out of the picture.

There are two simple reasons why we harbor a complete disdain for the annual Super Bowl Ad Game:

  1. The ads rarely pay off in increased brand sales
  2. The ads contribute to the pervasive lack of respect and trust in the marketing profession due to our lack of accountability

Every year there’s a lot of buzz about the cost of the average ad, the brands featured, and their stories.  Respected marketing “experts” are interviewed on pre/post game about these ads and our various marketing professional associations (AMA, PRSA, Ad Feds etc.) hold post Super Bowl meetings to discuss the best/worst ones – ugh!

So much of what feeds this beast are inflated agency, client and industry egos and a sheer lack of professional accountability because…THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THESE ADS DO NOT PROFITABLY BUILD SALES!

Be honest. Was there any brand or handful of brands that engaged you enough yesterday to make a phone call or plan a visit to inquire about or buy the product it was pushing?

Advertising doesn’t have to entertain. If you can entertain while engaging and persuading OK, but entertaining is hard. How about leaving the entertainment to the professionals…the NFL game itself?

Again, there’s nothing wrong with trying to entertain an audience, but it’s better to leave that to the NFL! Entertainment isn’t exactly what business owners, boards of directors or Wall Street expect with a half a billion dollar investment! They want an ROI!

The great Sergio Zyman who led the still famous (one of the all-time 10 best – see #9) Coca-Cola ad featuring our beloved Steelers Hall of Famer Joe Greene meekly said years later than not only did Coke’s adulated ad NOT build sales, but Coke sales actually DECLINED!

For what it’s worth, the ads inside the stadium rarely sell too.

If you’re a season ticket holder ask yourself who are the top 5 advertisers in your particular home stadium (don’t guess).  And if you can answer that question, ask yourself if you increased your business with any/all of those brands. For us Pittsburghers, We love Heinz Ketchup, but Heinz Field and its sponsored “Red Zone” have done nothing to increase our per capita usage. Our take is that their field sales force (marketing) that do an awesome job in making sure their product is widely distributed could have benefited more with a $500,000 cash infusion…more salespeople in the field anyone?

There’s a lot a brand can do with $500 – $600,000 dollars such as:

  1. Save it
  2. Use it to hire more/better people
  3. Use it for innovation
  4. Use it for incentives
  5. And a ton more…

We’ve been there!  We know!

One of us has been part of this process having sat for several years on a national advertising board of one the world’s largest brands debating and voting on Super Bowl advertising.  In fact, over the years, one would even hear silly arguments such as, “if we don’t do it (insert name of closest competitor) will do it! Are you kidding?

Is it any wonder then why the advertising profession is so disrespected?

Every year, Gallup conducts a “trust poll” to determine U.S. views on honesty and ethical standards in professions.  The poll asks people to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in different fields – very high, high, average, low or very low.

Here’s the % saying “very high” of “high.”


Noting that advertising practitioners are at the bottom of the heap, Ad/Marketing executives will always find it hard to get a seat at the CXO table. Why play games with money your clients have entrusted to you?

And, that’s why BrandMill is positioned as a marketing firm.  Marketing is what we believe in and feel most brands need to believe in more too. Advertising is one of the tools in our quiver, but it’s the last one drawn.  And, if/when we choose to draw our advertising arrow, you can be sure it will be aimed to engage, persuade and sell!

P.S.: Here’s a link to the “best” Super Bowl 50 commercials starting off with “Puppy Monkey Baby!” Utterly disgraceful!
Just driving awareness or entertaining isn’t what the purpose of good advertising! As an old ad pro once said, “I could drive awareness of any restaurant if I put a shrunken head in the window, but I doubt you’d want to eat there!” Enough said!