Forget the Titans and the Rams, the real eye-popper at this year’s
Super Bowl was the advertising. Or rather, the price of the
Super Bowl is always lip-quiveringly expensive for advertisers, but the
price of a 30-second TV ad has now topped dollars 2.2 million, a
whopping 37.5 per cent hike on last year.
Blame the dotcoms frenzy. Half of the Super Bowl’s ads were for internet
companies and demand from these new advertisers helped drive the sort of
inflation that would have veins pulsating on temples at the Incorporated
Society of British Advertisers.
But while Super Bowl may be a unique phenomenon, dotcoms-fuelled
inflation is set to become an issue for advertisers on this side of the
Atlantic too. Dotcoms often come armed with juicy ad budgets and without
the expectations of the sizeable discounts established advertisers are
used to. Not surprisingly, media owners are dribbling over the prospect
of hardening rates.
Recent reports suggest that some national newspapers are demanding - and
getting - 40 per cent premiums for dotcoms ads and I’m sure the papers
are not the only ones. John Billett’s report on FMCG advertising even
suggests that TV programmes are now being made to lure audiences who are
attractive to new-media and high tech advertisers at the expense of
shows for FMCG-purchasing housewives.
Of course, the likes of Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Mars are still
crucial to media owners (these three between them account for more than
pounds 350 million of UK adspend while dotcoms companies still account
for single percentage shares for many media owners). But because they’re
big spenders, they also drive hard bargains, demand high discounts and
cause heaps of trouble over issues such as inflation, sales practices or
media ownership consolidation. Is it any wonder that some media owners
now privately thumb their nose at those biggest advertisers, thanks to
the dotcoms bonanza?
But media owners cut their product to suit the dotcoms wallet at their
peril. Already the dotcom clutter is driving the savvy new-media brands
away from mainstream advertising, and that’s even before the
cost-inefficiencies of hefty ad premiums in a crowded market are truly
In the meantime, traditional advertisers are also beginning to look
More are experimenting with online marketing and Fletcher Research now
predicts that online adspend will account for 16 per cent of marketing
budgets by 2002. It will be a long time before a major brand can be
built by marketing on the internet alone. But media owners’ dotcoms
feeding frenzy is ensuring that more advertisers (old and new) are
looking closely at the commercial potential of the internet. After all,
25 million of us will be online in the UK within the next three years,
and that’s more than a quarter of this year’s Super Bowl audience.