Super Bowl Introspection

For most Americans, the Super Bowl connotes parties, sports fans, sports betting, beer, pizza, halftime shows and those highly anticipated and entertaining tv commercials. (I guess you could also toss in Nipplegate and conservative overreaction to decency standards). But when your profession is media and market research, the Super Bowl connotes a night of intense study of the surrounding marketing, advertising and consumer behavior – both for general understanding and client-specific assignments. In fact, I’ve spent virtually every Super Bowl over the past decade with a pencil and pad in hand, taking notes for rapid day-after analysis. This has been the case for every single research company I’ve worked at or consulted for. And here we are at Super Bowl XL…I’m in front of the television (and PC), taking notes on the marketing and ads, ready to spend the next few days analyzing the aftermath.

While my passion for media and market research hasn’t changed, my point of reference and the marketing environment sure has. Today, I work at Nielsen BuzzMetrics in a burgeoning research industry referred to as “measurement of online word of mouth and consumer-generated media.” It’s an exciting place to be overall and especially during this Super Bowl. Beyond the standalone ads, consider the ancillary marketing efforts designed to achieve so-called echo effects, to help justify those $2.5 million advertising investments. (See this great story on the topic by New York Times ad columnist Stuart Elliott.) There always will be debate over the justification of high-priced Super Bowl ads, but it definitely seems advertisers are being smarter and more sophisticated once they do make these investments. This is perhaps most true with regard to interactive and media integration strategies.

It’s amazing to think back to Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, when I worked at another exciting company called Media Metrix (later acquired by comScore), which pioneered a burgeoning industry called “Internet and digital media measurement.” That was the year that 17 of the 36 companies sponsoring the broadcast were related to the Internet. The big innovation was the insertion of URLs at the end of the commercials. In a reminiscent story Stuart Elliott wrote in February 2000 on that Super Bowl, Gene Shklar, vice president for public services at Keynote, said: “The Super Bowl was a watershed event in the integration of television and the Web. When a huge audience glued to the TV screen sees a commercial with a U.R.L., they will get up and access the site. You know the Web’s a monster when you see a Budweiser ad and ‘’ is at the bottom of the screen.” (Obvious disclosure: that story includes a Media Metrix analysis I contributed to.)

It seems everything and nothing has changed.

UPDATE: Here’s Stuart Elliott’s post-Super Bowl XL story, Can You TiVo to See Just The Ads? (I helped on analysis for this one too, on behalf of Nielsen BuzzMetrics.)


POST-GAME WRAP-UP: Lofty commentary aside…Super Bowl XL was anti-climatic…starting with the ads.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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