For decades, Broadcast TV was Goliath.  Today, it has pretty stiff competition from “Davids” such as Cable, Netflix, YouTube and the internet in general.  The advertising industry has been responding to the paradigm shift in the fight for eyeballs – with digital advertising projected to surpass Broadcast advertising spend this year according to the Wall Street Journal. The shift is without a doubt due to ubiquity of mobile.

Broadcast TV has very few events that capture the kind of audiences it used to – the biggest still being the Oscars and the Super Bowl.  The Super Bowl’s audience is still significantly larger with advertisers paying more per 30 seconds of airtime – but the Oscars in 2015 demanded a greater premium ($ per viewer) according to Forbes.  It’s safe to say that on the evening that these two live events broadcast, Television wins the advertising battle for both dollars and audience.  In fact, it could be said that it’s a “fool’s errand” to try and compete. But it’s debatable. After all, the hours leading up to and after the event has been shown to be a fantastic time for brands to engage with these audiences. And once thought taboo – even marketers with ads in the Super Bowl know that releasing their commercials online well before the event have received greater return on their investment.

Even with viewers accessing their mobile devices during these events – a majority are using them to post/read comments about the event on Twitter and Facebook.  They aren’t surfing. And their focus is myopic. Knowing this, some brands have tried to disrupt their competitor’s advertising spend by launching social campaigns and contests.  Last year, Volvo ran “The Greatest Interception Ever” campaign and asked viewers to tweet #VolvoContest during other car brands’ Super Bowl commercials. Grey advertising (responsible for the campaign) reported that they received over 50K tweets (in 4 hours) with a reach of 200MM earned media impressions. The campaign cost significantly less than a :30 spot. This year, Esurance ran their own Twitter-centric campaign, #esurancesweepstakes, in an attempt to hijack eyeballs during ad breaks in the Super Bowl. Early reports are that over 2MM unique users engaged with the hashtag amidst the broadcast of the Super Bowl.

Marketers who opt in to run a Super Bowl and/or Oscars spot are entering into a high-stakes card game at a table loaded with players who have deep pockets. The fragmentation of audience due to the explosion of viewership across multiple platforms and screens has lead us to this point. So few events are left on the broadcast programming calendar that drive real-time viewing like the aforementioned events, that, the opening bid is sky-high and the amount of insurance one needs to opt into to protect the investment only exacerbates matters. In the case of, Marmot, the CEO confirmed that the brand’s entire advertising budget was spent on the single Super Bowl spot they ran. Brands are, literally, stepping to the table and going ‘all-in’ on one spot!

When you sum the costs of production and media spend for a single :30 Super Bowl spot, the amount (~$15MM) is in the ballpark of an average mid-size brand’s full-year digital branding ad budget. A budget that could be spent running multiple campaigns over a full year replete with hard engagement metrics that could be used for future learning and campaign optimization. While advertising on TV and online aren’t mutually exclusive, the old adage of spend wisely (and strategically) needs to apply. Having an ad in the big game might be considered much sexier and buzzed about – but campaigns with longer legs and overall bang for your buck could be the bigger win.