How to Judge Super Bowl Advertising: Follow The Money

Let me tell you why I am not a fan of Super Bowl advertising… it sends the wrong message to our LOCAL advertisers. – Tom Ray, Jim Doyle & Associates

how to judge Super Bowl television advertising

Photo by Nomad_Soul.DPC

As the Super Bowl approaches, the advertising critics are out in force. Most of them will miss the point. When you’re deciding whether the ad you just saw is “good” or “bad”, consider the case of Salesgenie.

In 2007, Salesgenie, a sales-lead-by-subscription service, ran a commercial that was disliked by the vast majority of the media’s judges. Bob Garfield of Advertising Age called it “monumentally brainless and amateurish.” The commercial finished dead last in USA Today’s Ad Meter.

It lives on in cyberspace — enjoy it courtesy of YouTube, and then tell me if it’s a good commercial or a bad commercial:

A few days after the game, USA Today had this to report:

• The sales-lead website generated more than 10,000 new customer subscriptions by late Monday, far more than the 700 it said it needed to break even on its ad cost. “Our ad wasn’t supposed to be funny or clever,” InfoUSA CEO Vin Gupta says. “It was supposed to bring in subscribers, and it’s been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We’re already working on next year’s ad.”

They needed 700 subscriptions to break even on the ad, and they got 10,000. This would seem to be a very nice ROI.

If you were to accuse Gupta and the others involved in producing the commercial of being obnoxious, offensive human beings, you’d get no argument from this blog. But the commercial is an awfully impressive piece of direct-response advertising.

Salesgenie chose a specific target — lazy male salespeople — identified what they really wanted, presented their product as a way for those salespeople to get what they really wanted, and then gave them a specific action to take. The company cheerfully ignored all of the out-of-the-target people who didn’t like the ad, and took their money to the bank.

As Tom Ray points out, Super Bowl advertising often causes otherwise-intelligent local businesspeople to judge their own advertising using the wrong criteria.

If the ad works, it’s a great ad – no matter how many rules are broken or how bad it may look, smell or taste. If the ad is not working, it is wretchedly bad – no matter how clever the production.” — Don Fitzgibbons, the Guru of Ads


Most of the Super Bowl television advertisers have a product or service to sell. The commercial must somehow advance the sales process to be effective. As you watch the advertising this Sunday, ask yourself what each advertiser is trying to accomplish.

  • What do they want the audience to do  as a result of seeing the commercial?
  • Did the commercial cause the audience to do it?

If it did, the commercial worked, and it’s a good ad. If not, it’s a bad one. Salesgenie wasn’t counting USA Today Ad Meter votes — they were counting subscriptions. Like it or not, there were more than 10,000 reasons to say that the ad worked. 

If you are a local radio or television advertising salesperson, or someone who advertises on local radio or TV, don’t let the Super Bowl media judges take your eyes off the prize. Artistic merit doesn’t matter — businesses advertise because they have something to sell.

Follow the money. The prize that counts is awarded in dollars.

Question: What’s the best Super Bowl television commercial you’ve ever seen — and why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.






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2 thoughts on “How to Judge Super Bowl Advertising: Follow The Money

    • Randy, your comment wound up in the WordPress Spam filter — I just found it.

      Enjoyed the ad — has it aired anywhere since the Super Bowl?