Super Bowl Marketing Goes Direct Response

By 02/08/2010August 12th, 2022No Comments

Super Bowl marketing goes direct response

As a big football fan and passionate copywriter and marketer, I always have a conflict on Super Bowl Sunday.  When do I get up for a beer or something to eat?  Do I miss a couple downs or miss a commercial?

My professional side won out this year, and I watched all the commercials.  Even took notes (yes, I’m an advertising geek.)

Direct response copywriter

I’m a direct response copywriter, so I watch the ads with a different eye than the typical viewer.

[quick aside: Direct response advertising is the kind of advertising that makes people whip out their credit cards and buy.  Not next week.  Not tomorrow.  But right now. ]

“Image” ads vs. direct response ads

Most TV ads, and especially Super Bowl ads, are written by “agency” copywriters.  The copy is short, clever – even humorous.  But typically, those ads have no “call to action”.  Big difference.

I figure, if a company is going to spend $2.5-2.8 million for a 30-second spot, they better ask the viewer to do something, right?

A number of ads at least gave out their website address, which is a good start.  I’m always amazed when a company doesn’t give out their website.  Hello?!  It’s 2010! 

The direct response winners

But beyond that, I saw four clear winners:

  1. Papa John’s – the first commercial with a real call to action!  “Go to for a special offer.”  I like it, and I will.
  2. – I won’t get into the blatant use of sex to sell (that’s a whole series of blog posts), but there’s a reason has become the largest domain registrar.  I use them myself for about 17 domain names I own, and no, I’m not an affiliate.  They’re getting people to their website, which is 1/3 of the battle.
  3. Denny’s – Can you argue with a free Grand Slam breakfast?!  A TV ad doesn’t get more direct response than “Come to Denny’s for a free Grand Slam breakfast this Tuesday.”  Brillliant.  And finally…
  4. – The sleeper hit ad of Super Bowl XLIV.  Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reviving their Vacation roles.  A great tagline: “Rent a home for half the price of a hotel.”  And an easy-to-remember website that they tell you to go to:  Winning combination all around.

I may have missed another direct response ad (and GoDaddy and HomeAway weren’t pure direct response anyway), but those are all I found.

Anti-direct response

The others?  Those companies will have a hard time measuring response from their multi-million dollar ads.

That’s the beauty of direct response in any form – you can measure results.

And the “What Were They Thinking?” award goes to (a tie for first place)… and Audi.  Seriously.  What were they thinking?  These might even see a decrease in sales.  Terrible ads, for different reasons.

Bring on the marketing!

My prediction for Super Bowl XLV?

More direct response ads as companies start demanding results from their ad agencies.

We’ll talk TV ads again on February 7, 2011, after Brett Favre is crowned Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLV.

Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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