By  on January 25, 2007

The price of a TV commercial broadcast during the Super Bowl keeps heading up, but the value of such TV spots has turned south, according to some marketing and media experts.

"Super Bowl commercials are not worth it if you just look at the numbers," said Jon Bond, co-chairman of Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, one of six panelists convened by Reuters on Wednesday to discuss the high-profile ads that cost about $85,000 per second, or roughly $2.6 million for a 30-second spot.

"You have to have an X factor to make it worth it," Bond said, citing as examples the debut of a new product that subsequently gains entrée to stores, or a spot that truly sparks the public's imagination, such as Apple's 1984 Super Bowl spot, which is still talked about. Describing the Academy Awards as "the Super Bowl for women," Bond noted his agency chose last year's Oscars broadcast to air an ad introducing Tab's then-new energy drink.

Bond's assessment generally reflected that of the broader panel, with the unsurprising exception of Joann Ross, president of network sales at CBS, which will air the Super Bowl on Feb. 4. In one of the session's lighter moments, when an audience member asked if the panelists envisioned the Super Bowl someday becoming a pay-per-view event, Ross replied, "Not while I'm selling." Humorist Mo Rocca quipped, "There would be a revolt in this country if the Super Bowl were pay-per-view. I think we should make the State of the Union pay-per-view."

More effective than jettisoning Super Bowl spots, the panelists said, would be combining such commercials with new media platforms to reach sharply defined niche audiences. For example, a TV spot's call to action on a Web site can live on after the game's broadcast, said Julie Roehm, former senior vice president of marketing communications at Wal-Mart. Even then, Roehm said, "The only advertisers who can afford to do it really well are the big ones. It's a big bet, paying $2.6 million for a 30-second spot and another $500,000 to $2 million in production costs."

That view was taken a step further by the National Sports Marketing Network board this month, as 94 percent of the group's members said they would prefer new media platforms to Super Bowl spots to launch products. In addition, three-quarters of the board members polled said in five years new media would be a better way to advance a brand.Among the 25 components that have been sold so far for CBS's Super Bowl broadcast, which includes some advertisers who have signed on for more than one spot, there are at least a handful with tie-ins to Web sites: Coca-Cola, General Motors and Nationwide insurance.

"The premise of marketing has gone from a thin veneer and talking to a lot of people to talking to a few people who raise their hands, zealots," Bond said. "If you don't find a way to funnel down Super Bowl spots to a more precise group of people, it turns out to be not worth the risk."

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