Say it ain't so! Will recession affect Super Bowl ads?
In hard times, good news can make you stop and look. That's how it was last week when the NFL announced a new corporate partner and NBC announced a purchase of commercial spots for its Super Bowl broadcast in February.There they were, sticking out from under the confirmation that we're in a recession: the statistics showing that the number of lost jobs this year could top 1.5 million and the rest of the avalanche of dreadful economic stories. Are they signs of economic life? Maybe the first small steps toward a turnaround or recovery? Or do they come with strings attached? If you read carefully, the strings were easy to catch: The NFL's new partner and the purchaser of the Super Bowl spots were one and the same: Monster.com, a job-search engine on the Web. Not that this is new ground. CareerBuilder.com, another job-search Web site that has bought time on the broadcasts of the past four Super Bowls, will advertise on the broadcast again this year. Here's an industry that actually thrives in hard times. You wonder whether a job-search company's commercial on the Super Bowl broadcast should qualify as a public service announcement. What next? Spots for food banks? It's hard to write about sports and the economy these days. When life savings are evaporating and foreclosure notices are being pinned to front doors, the real story is bigger than any game, bigger than any league and bigger than sports itself. It's not the playoffs that matter. It's the layoffs.
"It was an incredibly successful campaign," says P&G spokeswoman Sarah Pasquinucci, who declined to say how or even when the company came to its decision. "We're not necessarily someone who advertises in the Super Bowl. We do it when it's a good fit for us. The economy has nothing to do with our decision."But at least one academic suggests that the company's call is a telling one. "P&G is considered by marketers as one of the most advanced measurement and research companies. They're one of the companies that understand it's a seamless world and how to track behavior cross-channel," Wharton's Bradlow says. In other words, P&G was able to see return on investment for its investment in the campaign by measuring the reach of the commercial using online metrics. Yet the acclaim and the well-tracked numbers weren't enough to persuade P&G to attempt a second act. In scale, CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com seem to be in a lower weight class than the likes of the Big Three or P&G. Yet, they've taken aggressive positions this fall.
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