The rules of the Super Bowl ad game have evolved over the preceding XLVIII years and are evolving still in the age of social media. Here are a few of the basics:
Rule No. 1: No one pays the sticker price.
The Super Bowl advertising marketplace is like a Turkish souk: Everyone haggles.
Yes, $4 million is the average cost per ad, but the actual cost to an advertiser varies widely. The biggest advertisers — Coca Cola, Anheuser-Busch, General Motors, etc. — will pay far less than the reported average, says Marc Morse, senior vice president of media-buying agency RJ Palmer in New York.
The primary reason: Big buyers command big discounts. They buy multiple ad "units" — 30- and 60-second spots — spread over the game. Anheuser-Busch, for example, will run three ads for Bud Light and two for Budweiser. It also has a multi-year contract to advertise during the game, further reducing its overall costs.
No such luck for one-off advertisers, such as SodaStream, which markets do-it-yourself soda-making machines (and has lately been involved in a controversy over its decision to build a factory in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank). The company, whose ad stars Scarlett Johansson, paid top dollar for its single, 30-second unit, though President Yonah Lloyd declined to specify his cost. "For us, the Super Bowl is the perfect vehicle to educate the American consumer" about the company's products, he said in an interview.
And deals involving Super Bowl ads usually involve more than Super Bowl ads. Time during the big game is often sold as part of a package that includes commercials during other programs or on channels owned by the Super Bowl's broadcaster.
"The networks try to get you to buy other things," Morse said. "CBS [last year] said, 'If you want the Super Bowl, you have to [buy] March Madness. This year it was, 'If you want the Super Bowl, be prepared for an equal spend on Fox [Sports] 1,' " a Fox-owned cable network.