Amazon, Apartments.com and online lender SoFi all announced their first Super Bowl ad buys last week, joining returning advertisers Esurance and website makers Wix and Squarespace. The moves shed light on an old industry debate: Is it smart to burn $5 million on a single TV spot instead of aggressively targeting Google and Bing users based on what they're searching for at that moment?
The question is "completely valid," acknowledged Chris Paul, Squarespace vp of media and acquisitions, before pointing to the ever-increasing use of tablets and smartphones during TV viewing. "We've turned a digitally native analytics team toward our TV efforts and found that the second-screen approach can be real and valuable," he said. A million viewers visited Squarespace's microsite while its ad aired during last year's game.
Wix's Super Bowl spot helped lift first-quarter revenue by 54 percent to $44.5 million, and its registered users jumped 35 percent over the prior first quarter.
Apartments.com CMO Becky Carr has high hopes for her Super Bowl spot, noting that recent TV efforts helped double revenue and triple site visitors.
Meanwhile, Duluth Trading Company, TireRack.com, FarmersOnly.com, Fathead.com and other e-commerce brands have become regular cable advertisers. Some marketers, however, remain steadfast in their belief that television just isn't worth the expense. Mattress seller Bedgear has stuck with digital ads—even as competitor Casper has gone big with TV spots.
"E-commerce brands can be far more effective from an ROI perspective with [one-to-one] advertising online," contended digital marketing consultant Sundeep Kapur.
But Carr said naysayers are missing a larger point—digital and mass media are becoming one and the same with consumers and should work in concert. "We want to build a brand and build brand trust," she explained. "And you don't get that just through search-engine marketing."
This story first appeared in the Feb. 1 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.