Johnson's World: Of Beer and Clydesdales

Advertising doesn't cost; it pays. But only if it works.

February 1, 2016
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If you are like most sensible people, you begin each month in eager anticipation, greeting the postman every day in hopes that the latest issue of Printing News will arrive.

When it does, you rip open the poly bag, turn the magazine over, and open the back cover. Ah, there it is, just what you’ve been waiting for: Johnson’s World! You sigh a blissful sigh as you savor ingesting another installment of the perfect blend of entertainment and edification.

If you are like most Americans, this particular month you are awaiting another form of entertainment almost as much as Johnson’s World. The first Sunday of this month is Super Bowl Sunday! Be still my beating heart! And just when you thought things couldn’t get any more amazing, we are going to blend these two earth-shattering events.

Yes, Super Bowl 50 may be played in Santa Clara California, but Super Bowl L will be played right here and now in Johnson’s World.

Since I’m writing this story just after Thanksgiving, I can’t tell you what teams will be competing, but I can share a much more important statistic; namely, the price of a 30-second advertising spot during the game.

If you like round numbers, you’ll love this one. $5,000,000. That’s five million dollars for one-half minute of air time to advertise on CBS. Of course, one must consider value, not just cost. With over one-third of the nation’s population watching the game, the potential to get your marketing message out to the masses could almost be said to be priceless.

You’ll see lots of ads for cars and trucks during the Super Bowl. Americans paid an average of $33,560 for each new vehicle they bought last year. Multiple that figure by the number of viewers and the five mil for a 30-second spot almost seems like a bargain.

You’ll see cars touted from every angle: performance, power, safety, capacity, economy, luxury, prestige.

Another product category you’ll see heavily advertised is beverages. The biggest single advertiser is, in fact, brewing behemoth Anheuser-Busch. A case of Bud doesn’t go for nearly as much as a new Chevy, but Americans sure do consume a lot of beer.

In the Budweiser ads this year you’ll see horses. Clydesdales, to be specific. Powerful full-grown Clydesdales, Clydesdale foals, harnessed Clydesdales, Clydesdales in the stable, and Clydesdales running free.

In the past a Dalmatian has also been present, and in recent years a Labrador puppy has stolen the show.

Seriously, what could be cuter than a Labrador puppy making friends with a herd of Clydesdales? That is a rhetorical question, of course, since the horse and puppy commercial was just about everyone’s favorite ad.

It topped the AdMeter. It went viral on YouTube. The only thing it didn’t do was sell beer.

"We’ve done the puppy commercials on the Super Bowl for the last three years and everybody loves them,” Anheuser-Busch vice president of marketing Jorn Socquet told Adweek, “They have zero impact on beer sales. Those ads I wouldn’t air again because they don’t sell beer. We learned that content focused on the quality of our beer was most effective in generating sales.”

Yea. What he said.

For a half million bucks (actually much more, with production costs) it is not unreasonable to expect an ad to sell the product. In fact, at any price advertising should be expected to pay for itself by selling your product or service.

Advertising, done correctly, is one of the most worthwhile investments a business can make. That’s why Bud is holding fast to its Super Bowl slots, even at $5,000,000 apiece.

Bud knows football fans are voracious consumers of its product. They aren’t ditching advertising, just Labrador retrievers. The awards and popularity didn’t matter, because the dogs didn’t sell beer. Anheuser-Busch is doing the numbers.

Does your advertising stand up to scrutiny? Are you doing the numbers?

Here’s a parting thought for those of you who don’t advertise at all and say you can’t afford to do so. You need to do the numbers as well. The one thing your business cannot afford is not advertising at all. Think about that while you are watching next year's Super Bowl.