Variable pricing for Super Bowl ads via porn data...

As a lukewarm football fan (thx Google for providing me with “superbowl 2014 teams” day of info) who views most things from a marketing mindset, I watch the Super Bowl 85% for the ads.  Factor in 15% for an excuse to order wings and Amstels (as if we needed one).

We all know that commercials during the most-watched televised US event of all time (not to mention the 2nd largest day of food consumption…nice one, America) are the priciest of all ad spaces, which begs the question “how is it being capitalized on?” 

1) Is it fixed pricing?  I’ve long heard the statistic that a 30s ad runs upwards of $1M…at least.  Does this mean it costs $1M to purchase any ad space, regardless of time interval the ad airs?  I ask this because, to me…

2) Variable pricing makes more sense… I am very curious to know if commercials are priced differently depending on the proximity to beginning/end of game as well as to the halftime show.  I’d expect peak viewer numbers at the beginning and also close to halftime, but does that mean the Super Bowl has also built in mechanisms to capture the additional revenue they would be able to drive from selling off this prime ad space?  Pricing towards the end of the game would be more variable, since it is difficult to predict with accuracy whether the game will be neck-in-neck or have a clear winner (sorry Broncos #toosoon).

Take the Pornhub traffic data collected from this year’s game: 

"While porn viewing numbers in Seattle and Washington dropped below average in the wake of their massive victory — presumably because everyone was out partying — the numbers in Denver and Colorado surged to 10.8% and 7.6% above average, respectively. The climax reading topped off at around at 11pm before Bronco fans eventually took to sleeping off their loss and their quick release fantasy.”

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(Source: Scallywag & Vagabond)

With data like this, it seems feasible for there to be a live bidding system that happens during the actual game (where companies can put in bids to buy the next immediate prime real estate for their commercial).  However, would this put the underdogs (e.g., in my opinion, Squarespace) at a disadvantage?  A friend then retorted that clearly no one who is vying for Super Bowl ad space could possibly be labeled an ‘underdog’ because every brand in the running can already afford the 6-figure base rate.

All in all, many of these questions regarding Super Bowl ad space are left unresolved, but a great exercise in brainstorming pricing strategy regardless!  Well done, NFL.

One last tangential thought: I am pretty sure this is the first time I (and many of my friends) have watched full-length commercials on a TV (and advertisers only have the Super Bowl to thank for that).  With the landscape of televised programs changing so rapidly (go get ‘em, Netflix!) and channels like YouTube empowering brands to make and track viral commercials, it will be interesting to see how big televised events change (if at all) in the coming years…