A Weak Demand for Super Bowl Ads?

Advertisers are not snapping up time on the 2015 Super Bowl.

Last week NBC reported that it had sold less than 90 percent of the advertising time. Seth Winter, executive vice president for sales of the NBC Sports told Stuart Elliott from the New York Times that sales had "a little slower pacing than previous years."

This is a bigger issue than it might seem for NBC.

On the surface, having a few spots left over in late November doesn't seem like a big concern. The game is more than two months away; that is plenty of time to sell a bit of advertising time.

For a typical show, this would indeed be the case. The problem is that the Super Bowl isn't a typical show.

The first issue is that people expect to see new and exciting ads. Many people -- some studies suggest most people -- watch the Super Bowl primarily to see the advertising. As a result, if a brand doesn't have a new ad and dynamic spot it can disappoint people. During the Super Bowl, people don't want to see the same AT&T spot they've been watching for weeks; they want to see something new.

It takes time to develop great creative. Companies generally don't have brilliant ads sitting around the office. To develop a new piece of creative, a company has to write a creative brief, work with an agency to generate creative ideas, select a concept, shoot the ad and edit it. If the company has any sense it will also test the ad with consumers and make revisions.

This all takes time. You can't create a great Super Bowl ad in a couple weeks.

The second problem is that the Super Bowl isn't just about advertising. Companies hoping to get the most from a Super Bowl spot need to create integrated campaigns including a PR effort, a social media campaign and customer promotions. There should also be an internal marketing program to engage employees.

This means that a Super Bowl advertiser will likely need to work with several different agencies. While some firms claim to do everything, this is rarely the case. PR is best done by a PR firm, and social media is best led by firm that specializes in that.

This is all complicated. It takes time.

Finally, for advertisers, the Super Bowl isn't really an event in February. It is a month-long season that begins on January 1. Most advertisers this year will use the weeks leading up to the game to generate excitement. They will talk with reporters in a bid to get some news coverage, release teaser spots and try to generate discussions on social media.

All of this means that buying time on the Super Bowl isn't a quick decision. Marketers don't (and shouldn't) decide to run a spot at the last minute, unless they can get the time at a dramatically discounted price.

NBC's Seth Winter told Stuart Elliott that he is "very satisfied" with the pace of sales. For someone in sales, with an interest in putting a positive spin on things, this is a modest assessment.

The team at NBC knows advertisers don't buy a Super Bowl spot at the last minute and must be very concerned about demand this year.