Are Super Bowl Ads Worth the Price? Newcastle Says No

Newcastle, a British beer company, has released a new pre-Super Bowl ad that jokingly challenges the efficacy-to-cost ratio of Super Bowl ads and invites smaller brands to “crowdfund” a more cost-effective solution.

The spot features television star Aubrey Plaza calling Super Bowl advertising a way for “big brands to blow $4 million on 30 seconds of air time.” As an alternative, the ad invites brands to use America’s “sharing economy” to band together and produce one brand-packed mega ad that relies on social media and engagement rather than expensive Super Bowl air time.

The spot, while humorous, highlights a growing debate over the effectiveness of Super Bowl advertising. In a recent New York Times interview, Charles Van Es, head of marketing for Heineken, parent company to Newcastle, called Super Bowl advertising obsolete, stating, “You don’t need the dinosaur channels like television anymore. We’re in a new age. You can use digital and get the same buzz.”

He could be onto something, since last year, a Communicus study of 120 Super Bowl ads over two years found that 80 percent of commercials do not produce any meaningful impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. 

While Anheuser-Busch holds exclusive beer brand rights to the Super Bowl, meaning Newcastle couldn’t advertise even if it wanted to, Jeri Smith, chief executive (CEO) of Communicus, believes that the brand can still successfully advertise around the Super Bowl by capitalizing on younger, more malleable marketing tools, such as social conversations.

“Newcastle is being rather clever with its dinosaur analogy,” says Smith. “Is Newcastle really just calling Anheuser-Busch a dinosaur in [The New York Times] quote? That strategy makes sense from a positioning standpoint since Newcastle, an upstart brand, would employ that approach in trying to unseat its older, established competitor.”

Van Es told ClickZ that the campaign is about leveraging the playing field by pitting strategic storytelling against huge marketing budgets in order to get smaller brands a share of the attention big brands gain come game time.

“Together with our partner brands we would like to win the big game without paying the sums other brands are paying to play in the big game,” says Van Es. “Alone each brand would have a tough time getting their message out, but together with some creativity we can disrupt the status quo and get heard. No need to bring a big fat wallet, just bring the right attitude.”

To become a part of the “Band of Brands,” companies should reach out to Newcastle through the campaign’s microsite. Newcastle will chose up to 20 brands to participate. If successful, the campaign could tip the balance of marketing power in smaller brands’ favor, according to Nick Maschmeyer, strategist at Droga5, the agency behind the video.

“This type of large-scale brand collaboration was born more out of sheer necessity,” says Maschmeyer. “There are thousands of brands out there, but the fact is that only a handful can actually afford to run a big game spot, which is why we more or less see the same brands year after year. But this arrangement is essentially democratizing big game advertising; putting it within reach for the rest of us who can’t actually afford it on our own. We just love the idea that a bunch of small brands can band together and take a crack at the big game, too.”

Update: Newcastle has released its “Band of Brands” crowdfunded spot on YouTube. 

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