Rolling the dice



If you tuned into the Super Bowl last Sunday my guess is you watched the commercials.

National companies always air new commercials during the Super Bowl, and for the most part they’re entertaining. I liked most, but not all, of the commercials I saw, but then again I didn’t watch the entire game.

The game was a blowout from the get-go, and got worse pretty fast. Unless you loved one team, hated the other, or simply revel in another team getting pummeled, it was hard to sit through the whole 60 minutes.

It made me wonder what some of the big ad execs were thinking in the second half when they knew that eyeballs were deserting the screen. Say you had a commercial that wasn’t going to air until the second half. Even if it was a great ad, it wouldn’t mean anything if nobody was around to watch it.

Consider this: The average cost for a 30 second commercial during Super Bowl XLVIII was $4 million, which averages out to about $133,000 per second. Now, the companies that produce these commercials know what they’re getting into. This year’s price was the same as last year’s. And big companies often offset that cost by making their own deals with the Super Bowl’s broadcasting network, this year it was Fox, months in advance, according to what I’ve read.

So the price, though staggering, really isn’t the issue. According to The Washington Post, what advertisers really care about is a commercial’s "efficiency," or cost per viewer.

"More art than science," is how San Diego State University marketing professor George Belch described that effect to The Post.

It involves knowing when to buy a Super Bowl ad, how much to pay for it and where to place it during the almost four hours of airtime. That’s why blowouts like Sunday’s game cause advertisers to squirm so much.

Besides the score, those whose commercials are slated to run in the second half also have to deal with viewer fatigue.

"A lot of people are watching the game at parties," Belch told The Post. "They’ve been there for hours, and they’re getting tired. By the third or fourth quarter, the same enthusiasm is just not there."

Of course, the opposite is true if the game is close. According to the Neilsen rating service, the audience for last year’s Super Bowl between the Ravens and the 49ers actually grew 25 percent from its low point to its high point, and peaked at nearly 115 million viewers late in the second half. That was a dramatic game that featured a rare power failure, which gave the audience a bit of a breather and a furious late rally that saw the 49ers almost pull it out. It’s fair to say that someone who had a commercial that aired in the second half of that game couldn’t have been happier.

This year’s game had the makings of a classic matchup -- and it turned out to be the most watched event in the history of television -- but it had none of the elements that livened up Super Bowl XLVII. Second half advertisers were probably disappointed. But high stakes advertising is like rolling dice. You never know what number is going to come up.

And guess what? There’s always next year.


It was encouraging to see so many people brave a light snowfall to attend Berkshire Grown’s annual networking event in Pittsfield during the middle of the afternoon on a workday last week. Berkshire Grown covers the Berkshire region, a nebulous geographic area. That means many of its members reside in rural areas outside the county.

There were 55 people in attendance, according to executive director Barbara Zheutlin. In my experience, it’s rare to see that many people attend an event like that in bad weather when they have to drive a fair distance.

Here’s a couple of upcoming Berkshire Grown events to keep in mind. Zheutlin said Berkshire Grown plans to extend its holiday markets in Great Barrington into January and February next year. Those markets usually end in mid-December.

Berkshire Grown and the Community Land Trust will be also be holding a Farmland Access Symposium on Saturday, April 12, at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield.

The event is intended to establish a dialogue between the numerous groups involved in local agriculture, including established, new and retired farmers; land owners; land conservationists; agriculture commissions; community food security organizers; and financial advisers, accountants, assessors and attorneys. Speaker and program details will be released at a later date.

Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at


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