Work from home, online classes, and wearing face masks are just some of the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s one thing that’s the same: Paying big bucks for a Super Bowl ad.
This year, TV commercials during Super Bowl LV are going for around $5.5 million per 30-second spot, sources familiar with the numbers tell Fast Company.
That’s down from the $5.6 million average, according to Statista. The rate in 2019 was $5.3 million and the average was $5 million in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Compare all that with the $2.2 million average in 2002.
“Super Bowl advertising pricing is bit like negotiating for a car. There’s sticker price and then all the negotiations that go on after that,” explains Tim Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “I don’t think the Super Bowl is less important as a marketing platform. It means this year is so complicated for so many companies. Many are saying, ‘We don’t think it’s the time.'”
Despite media reports about many companies opting not to run Super Bowl commercials this year, a ViacomCBS spokesperson confirmed that all the spots have been sold, but declined to say how many that was.
Statista says 70 ads aired during last year’s Super Bowl, though previously, the range was between 80 to 100 commercials.
Calkins points to industries that have suffered revenue declines and even layoffs, like hospitality, as those that might forego Super Bowl ads. In addition to business conditions, the other major factor prompting advertisers to pull back is the creative challenge posed by the times we live in—for instance, not running an ad that might be seen as too flippant during this serious period, or not wanting to lean the other way toward something too disheartening. Other concerns include whether or not to mention what’s going in the United States right now, or worrying about inadvertently having one of the many obscure white supremacy symbols appear in an advertisement, only to have your brand called out later on social media.
Among those sitting out the big game this year are Coca-Cola, Avocados from Mexico, Budweiser, Hyundai, and Little Caesars. Companies that will be airing spots on Sunday night include the recent headline maker Robinhood, in addition to Uber Eats, Amazon, Tide, and Cheetos.
“I suspect this will be a very big year for the Super Bowl,” Calkins says. “People are home. There’s not much going on. People are looking for ways to be entertained. Instead of streaming another episode of Schitt’s Creek, they’ll watch the Super Bowl.”
He added that advertising could get even more attention than normal this year, thanks to smaller, more intimate viewing habits. “If you’re at a party, it’s hard to pay attention to advertising, but not if you’re home with family,” he said.