"[I]f all the folks are in the same audience, you can turn off some people."
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More than 90 million people watched Pittsburgh's victory over Seattle at this year's Super Bowl, many of them caring more about the commercials hyped than about the game itself. But if the ads weren't memorable or if they offended potential customers, that's $2.5 million per 30-second slot that could have been better used elsewhere.
ComScore Networks conducted a survey revealing many companies did more harm than good. For example, 20 percent of viewers say the Burger King dancing Whopperettes ad damaged their perception of that brand. "Any time you're in mass media you have to be careful what you want your message to be. If you're going to use an edgy ad, you have to be really careful," says Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman. "It's different strokes for different folks, but if all the folks are in the same audience, you can turn off some people."
Another problem is using so much star power or creativity that viewers forget the brand behind the story. Nationwide Insurance's ad featured Fabio paddling a gondola, turning into an old man to show life passes quickly. Analysts suggest that most people likely won't remember anything beyond the former D-list celebrity.
Nationwide and others also failed to incorporate simple marketing tactics into their television ads, according to Peter Kim, analyst at Forrester Research. GoDaddy.com, however, took full advantage of this method. Its spot of a well-endowed woman losing her strap catapulted site traffic 991 percent following the first appearance and 1,148 percent during the second half of the game, with 439,000 unique visitors, according to comScore. There's no doubt that sex sells, but some pundits argue that displaying "there's more at www.godaddy.com" in big bold letters also contributed to the spike in Web traffic. Kim says, "[Most] people just slapped a URL at the end. It's missing the point of how to get the most out of your spot."
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