Super Bets

It’s nearly time for advertising’s big moment. Most of us will never pull the trigger on a Super Bowl spot. But odds are most of us will contemplate a big, risky bet at some stage in our career as a marketing leader. What can the Super Bowl teach us about navigating these high-pressure moments? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • There’s plenty of evidence that Super Bowl ads don’t generally do much to impact purchase or purchase intent. Yet the price goes up every year.
  • In fact, Fox added extra commercial time this year amid strong demand. So are marketers just irrational? Or are there more dimensions to these big decisions?

  • A Super Bowl ad can offer other benefits besides a bump in sales. For example—amazing reach, lots of earned media and great word of mouth.
  • Not to mention access to young people who don’t watch much TV.
  • Plus a big, bold bet like this can also signal to consumers that your brand is big and confident enough to step onto the field (pun intended). If any of these benefits match your specific goals, the choice starts to seem a bit less insane.
  • Still, dropping $5.6 million has got to be a hand-wringing decision, no matter how clear your goals are. If you’re curious, here’s a list of the brands who took the leap this year. We’re sure all of them know exactly what Netflix founder Reed Hastings means when he talks about being “genuinely pained” by strategic choices.

  • It could be argued that making uncomfortable, risky choices is harder than ever for marketing leaders. Agile working methods, which favour data-driven incremental improvement over big bets, are being widely adopted in our industry.
  • And declining CMO tenures and other forms of volatility have led many to shift their focus to managing risks rather than seeking them out.
  • Our take: managing risk is vital. But there’s a clear body of evidence proving that bold moves aren’t actually less risky than a timid corporate strategy.
  • We also agree with Helen Edwards, who argues that courage is a key trait of the best marketers.
  • With that in mind, here are some tips for making scary decisions and getting the big bets right. Our favourite: commit to your organization’s big-bet decisions once they’re made—even if you disagree.

Try This

  • A pre-mortem session allows you and your team to imagine all the reasons your project could crash and burn—and then figure out how to prevent those problems before you get started.
Issue #86
Feb 2, 2020

Further Reading