by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) The average annual media budget for a large brand in SA is around R70m — and that is exactly what a 30-second spot in this weekend’s Super Bowl in the US costs. That is something to digest, and neatly shows the wealth and size gap between the two markets; the Super Bowl does reach 110m affluent Americans, after all.

More significantly, it highlights the continued demand among advertisers for those singular, live moments where there is certainty that audiences will actually watch it live. Many CMOs in the US have now publicly stated that the majority of their TV spend will now focus on these “Super Bowl moments”.

Live vs non-live

For proof, they need look no further that the top 10 most-watched programmes of 2016, all live events: Super Bowl, World Series (Baseball), The Oscars, Summer Olympics, NFL (Gridiron) playoffs and the NBA (Basketball) Finals. Audiences range from 112m for No. 1 to 31m for No. 10.

The highest non-live programme rating? The Big Bang Theory at 19m.

What this has done is to separate live content from packaged content. Netflix, Showmax and similar services are succeeding because they have understood the shift from packaged programmes being seen as a live event (think Dallas in the ’80s) discussed around the water cooler to something that is consumed more like a book — when and where you feel most comfortable, and seen more as a whole, not as individual chapters. Individual episodes are no longer discussed, but the series as a whole.

What works best

Understanding these Super Bowl moments and what will work when advertising during them, has now become key.

An interesting study was done by the research firm Communicus around the 2014 Super Bowl, which found that 80% of Super Bowl ads don’t actually help sales. Of the ones that did, a vital component was an agile digital strategy, amplifying both the original content plus the social conversations that started as a result of the ads.

Further to that, three different kinds of campaigns were identified as working best in a live environment:

  1. Brands new to the market without name recognition: The opportunity to make a splash and be seen in an environment that punches above its weight works harder for an unknown brand, especially if the creative is edgy. A famous example is the ad in the 2013 Super Bowl, which involved a long, intimate kiss between Bar Rafaeli and a less-than-attractive partner and became the most talked about ad on social media and massively increased sales.
  2. Brands that want to align with a social issue: This is usually a new news story for an old brand and it gives an opportunity to launch a fresh association of a good news story. Creatively, this space is also usually looser for a brand and allows for something really impactful to be done.
  3. Super Bowl moments work well as a pivot for long-term engagement campaigns. Months before, a campaign may be seeded to build up anticipation and ensure that awareness is heightened when it is actually flighted. Post-flighting, it may be leveraged and sustained much longer than if the Super Bowl moment had not been used.

Rather unexpected

So the next time you thinking about doing a TV campaign, think about how it may be structured around Super Bowl moments. They may not be as big in South Africa, and there may not be one, defining, total population-capturing event, but they are there if you look for them — and some of them are rather unexpected. Anyone doing anything during the president’s state of the nation (SONA) speech this year?


Martin MacGregorMartin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to

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