You’ve spent $4,000,000  for 30 seconds: What would you say? 

In just a few weeks, it will be Superbowl Sunday, the single biggest sporting event in the United States. Millions of Americans will be glued to their television sets as the spectacle unfolds.

I’m looking forward to some entertaining moments, some embarrassments, and some truly colossal wastes of money.

I’m not talking about the game itself. I’m talking about the advertising.

This year, a thirty second commercial during the Superbowl costs up to a cool $4 million. Oh, and all of the commercials have been sold and there is a waiting list.

Consider that for a moment. If you were to spend $4 million to get 30 seconds to promote your business, what would you say?

In the past, some advertisers have used their 30 seconds to promote farting horses, sex change operations, and lemmings.

No. Really. I wish I were making this up.

One of Budweiser’s Superbowl commercials began with a couple having a romantic evening in a horse drawn carriage. A farting horse, whose flatulence hits a candle and torches the woman’s hair, ruins the ride.

This was an effort to sell beer.

Holiday Inn presented a scene where the “hot” woman at the high school reunion turned out to be a classmate formerly known as Bob. This transitions into a last minute mention that equates her sex change with Holiday Inn’s recent renovations.

This was an effort to sell staying at a chain of hotels.

Just one year after the Macintosh was introduced with one of the most memorable commercials ever created, Apple ran an abstract commercial that included a spooky version of the tune “Heigh-Ho” and office workers walking off a cliff.

This was an effort to sell the Macintosh Office. (After this debacle, Apple didn’t return to advertising during the Superbowl for another fourteen years.)

So why do otherwise intelligent companies end up spending millions to do a lousy job of selling products?

They confuse entertainment with selling.

What is missing is a clear understanding of the fundamental of advertising. Advertising is supposed to sell something. The only valid measurement is: did it produce results?

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret of the advertising business.

To validate if an advertising person is any good at their job, many people turn to awards.

Most of the awards given in the ad business are given to creative types by other creative types for (you guessed it) creativity. They don’t evaluate the bottom-line results that were created.

Creative awards are used to get new clients who fund other creative ads, which in turn win awards that lead to getting other new clients who fund other ads that…you get it.

When advertising people talk about “impact,” “buzz,” or use the term “breakthrough,” it usually means they don’t have any measurable results from their work.

If they could show how an investment of $100,000 generated $500,000 in sales, they would.

The root of the problem is that many creative types enjoy being “creative” but never embrace selling. Deep down, they fear actual selling. They don’t believe selling is sexy. It is much easier to avoid selling and to go for glamour and entertainment.

Effective advertising rarely wins awards. It just quietly produces results and makes the client a lot of money.

Effective advertising touches the right nerve to get people to say to themselves: “I want that. I need that.” And, it gets them to pick up the phone and respond to an offer.

Let’s go back to the Superbowl. One of the recent ads considered “worst” by the media who judge Superbowl ads by their entertainment value was done by

Salesgenie is an online subscription service that provides sales leads. Their ads were simple, inexpensive animations. In comparison to the big budget mega ads, they were plain and boring, maybe even annoying.

However, they correctly targeted the right audience—business owners and sales people. Their ads conveyed the benefits of how Salesgenie helps businesses get more sales. Most important, they had a strong offer – 100 free sales leads.

More than 30,000 people visited the company’s website the evening of last year’s Super Bowl. That generated as many product trials as the company usually earns in a month. In addition,’s website market share spiked by more than 500 percent after its first Superbowl commercial debuted.

So while you’ll probably enjoy many of the commercials you’ll see during this year’s Superbowl, ask yourself: If you were going to spend $4 million and had just 30 seconds, what would you say?

Would you tell a joke?

Or would you give people some very strong reasons to do business with you?

Enjoy the game.

To Your Business Success,


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Richard Wilson is the Founder/Chief Marketing Strategist for Sentium Strategic Communications which helps companies craft the right message for extraordinary results. Over the past 33 years, his clients
have ranged from startups to major technology companies.


© 2011 All Rights Reserved. All people who are looking to dramatically boost their business should read this rezone. Don’t even think about reproducing this document or its contents without written permission from Richard Wilson. But feel free to forward this or e-mail it to all of your friends. For reprint permission please call 800-595-1288.