In 2013, any given advertiser spent more than $4,000,000 on 30 seconds of air time during the Super Bowl broadcast.
For most companies, this kind of audience reach is a dream. In fact, one of the rites of passage for major brands’ marketing efforts has been their debut in the ad space surrounding the Super Bowl broadcast.
These are poor aspirations, and if your company was offered a free ad during that broadcast today, you should turn it down. Why?
Your Audience is More Fragmented Today Than Ever Before
In 1998, ABC debuted Sports Night. It was considered a critical success at the time, but was cancelled after two seasons, chiefly due to low ratings.
In 2009, ABC debuted Modern Family, a sitcom also considered a critical success. Five years on, it’s an anchor in the ABC lineup and one of the most popular shows on television. Largely due to its high ratings, it has been renewed three times so far and there is no indication of it slowing any time soon.
The average number of viewers for Modern Family‘s second season was 11.89 million per episode. The average number of viewers for Sports Night‘s second season was 11.5 million viewers.
So, what has changed? The channels and programming choices available to the television consumer in 2010 is far more numerous and diverse than it was in 1999, so earning a relatively similar rating is much harder today than it was just a decade ago. For advertisers, this means that transmitting your message to a large, single set of viewers is much harder today than ever, and online, it gets worse.
The proliferation of content on television pales in comparison to the proliferation of content on the internet, creating millions of niche audiences of one hundred, rather than hundreds of audiences of one million.
Old-School Advertisers’ Losses Are Your Gains
Truth is, it’s a lot harder to and incredibly more expensive to reach an audience of millions with a single transmission. And (assuming that you’re really lucky) your actual target market makes up half or less of the people that receive it. This means that there is a huge waste involved with any mass-media ad spend.
It’s a lot cheaper to reach them hundreds at a time. What’s even better, is that the self-segmentation that has happened online can lead to conversion rates that a TV ad could only dream of. This means that not only is it far more affordable, but it’s also more efficient, wasting fewer dollars broadcasting a message to a non-target market.
Put another way, talking to a few hundred members of a herpetological society about your iguana food is cheaper and more efficient than an ad on any broadcast network.
The brands that have embraced segmentation, put real work into finding their audience and then goes out to have the conversation with them are winning audience share and making more sales at a fraction of the cost of the brands that are desperately clinging to an antique version of marketing that was largely unchanged since the beginning of time.
No longer is it enough to ask “How many people are around while my transmission is being broadcast?”
Instead, the fragmentation of media and their audiences have allowed marketers to ask “How many interested people are we having conversations with?” And that’s an improvement.
So, About That Super Bowl Ad
Despite this fragmentation, the Super Bowl remains one of the few television broadcasts that is gaining audience share. Still, its diverse audience and transmission-based nature (as opposed to a homogenous audience engaging in two-way conversation) make it an incredibly inefficient purchase.
Finding your audience should be a lot simpler and easier today than it was ten years ago, because your audience has splintered itself into identifiable, interest-driven categories for you. Most companies can and should be finding their own Super-Bowl-caliber marketing for a microscopic fraction of that price.
(If you’re interested in finding yours, get in touch with us.)