It’s finally here. Football fans everywhere have spent the last year counting down to Super Bowl Sunday, the main event for the NFL. But advertising and marketing executives have spent the last year actively planning for Super Bowl Sunday. And let’s face it, a lot of people who are not football fans watch the Super Bowl for one thing: the commercials. The ads typically dominate water cooler conversation the next day, and now take over social media and traditional media as well – for many, the final score doesn’t even matter.

In ad land, Super Bowl Sunday is a holiday. A lot of us are like little kids on Christmas – only we’re glued to the television instead of staring at the chimney waiting for Santa to slide down. Year after year, brands deliver. The ads are creative, hilarious, inspiring. We talk about them for a year after they air… until the next Super Bowl. Which brand do you think will have the most popular ad this year?

The Way I See It

  • For advertisers, Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year. I see brands paying millions of dollars for 30-second spots during the Super Bowl and investing in ads that they hope will draw lots of sales and big returns.
  • I see brands using Super Bowl commercials not just to entertain, but increasingly to engage the consumer offer by incorporating social media or mobile elements to their TV ads.
  • I see each brand that advertises trying to push the envelope with creative spots that will stand out to consumers – helping the brand to achieve a coveted spot as one of the top ads of the year, but also boosting sales for the brand.
  • I see advertising executives from all ends – creative, compliance, consumer, privacy, legal – coming together to create ads that define their brands, attracting consumers and creating buzz – and making sure that the buzz around an ad translates into buzz around a brand, which is often easier said than done.
  • What is the lesson for advertisers from the “blackout in New Orleans”? How do you protect yourself when there is a problem at a live event? I see advertisers thinking about integrated campaigns not just on the positive side – how they can all work together, but on the negative side – what happens if something goes wrong.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Jeff Klein, Senior Director of Marketing at Frito-Lay to discuss advertising during the Super Bowl and the importance of the NFL’s biggest game for the advertising industry.


Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” has become one of the most anticipated consumer contests of the year and is very successful, having won the USA Today ‘Ad Meter’ polling in three of the last four years. On a larger scale, consumer engagement through the use of contests, giveaways, and social media engagement, has become a huge trend for brands around the Super Bowl. Do you think consumers now have different expectations about the types of initiatives that brands will launch around the big game? How has consumer engagement with Super Bowl advertising evolved in recent years?

I think expectations of brand communication and activation have evolved considerably regardless of the communication medium, but they are certainly amplified at the Super Bowl. The days of talking at your consumer and expecting some sort of action are long gone. It’s more about consumer engagement – how can you continually engage your target in a conversation that goes well beyond the 30-second ad. How do brands achieve this on the world’s largest advertising stage? That depends largely on a brand’s narrative, but you can bet there will be innovative ways to extend their messaging beyond the game. Doritos literally invented the crowdsourcing model around the Super Bowl, and a few brands have been inspired to take similar approaches. It works for Doritos because it’s authentic. It’s not just a Super Bowl campaign, it’s part of our brand’s DNA.

90% of Super Bowl ad spots were sold by early September 2012 – just over five months before the game airs. What makes so many brands look to invest in this expensive space year after year? What is it about the Super Bowl and its viewership that holds such importance for brands?

For brands, it is absolutely a huge investment, but it also offers a unique communication opportunity in today’s fragmented media environment. From a pure eyeballs perspective, no program comes even close to the reach Super Bowl offers. There are few opportunities better in the year to drive awareness of a brand’s positioning, innovation, or programming – and the timing of the game allows you to set the tone for the year. Beyond this, it’s important to understand that not all Gross Rating Points (GRPs) are created equal. It’s very easy for consumers to avoid a brand’s messaging with technology. Not only is the Super Bowl virtually DVR proof, but people actually tune-in FOR the commercials.

In recent years, how have conversations among consumers on social media sites and mobile devices in real time during the Super Bowl – or, in advance of the big game now that many brands are choosing to reveal their commercials on social media – impacted returns on ads for brands, including sales? Is there a boom in online traffic to big brand websites or e-commerce that can be attributed to the Super Bowl? In other words, what are the many ways that brands are measuring success and ROI for Super Bowl ads today?

The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will depend (and vary) based on the individual objectives of the brand. If it’s a new product launch, or a young brand getting its first major media push, the success criteria may be as simple as awareness and trial post game. For other, more established brands such as Doritos, it can be much more complicated. Our model is built primarily around pre-game buzz, where the majority of our consumer engagement in the program (Crash the Super Bowl) takes place in the weeks leading up to the big game. This year we moved the platform to Facebook, to encourage organic views of the ads entered into the contest. In year seven of the program, our total site visits were up significantly, so we feel like we’ve already won.

There is already a buzz in the industry about “The L” – Super Bowl 50 in 2016. Looking ahead, do you expect most ads to follow a historical theme attaching the brand’s history to the 50 years of the Super Bowl, or do you think brands will feel pressured to continue to strive for entirely new ideas? Will there be a way to balance that?

With the exception of brands that leverage nostalgia as part of their equity, I would expect Super Bowl advertisers to stick with what makes sense for their brand narrative and overall communications strategy. For most advertisers, the Super Bowl is a unique stage that provides access to more than 100 million engaged consumers. I would struggle with the idea of altering a brand’s communication strategy in order to mesh with a historical theme.

What is the coolest object in your office right now?

I get bored very easily, and try to spend 90% of my time out of my office – I never return inter-office phone calls, I walk to people’s offices – but in my office? I really like my Xbox.