While the annual Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet offers an enticing alternative to the Super Bowl for those who aren't football fans, almost everyone loves to watch the NFL championship game just for the $2 million per 30-second spot advertising spectacles. Super Bowl ads get as much, or more, attention and analysis as the game itself.
Of course, most companies aren't Coca Cola, or Budweiser, or...Google, and don't have a budget to advertise on television during reruns of Seinfeld, much less during the Super Bowl. Thankfully, Web advertising levels the playing field and enables smaller companies to compete on a more even footing with much larger competitors.
Traditional advertising via television, radio or even in print publications like magazines and newspapers is bought and sold based on demographics. The audience of Dora the Explorer is different than the audience of The O'Reilly Factor, which is different from the audience of an NBA basketball game.
Businesses can "target" ads based on the general makeup of the audience--what age group typically watches, and is the audience more likely to be male or female, etc.--but that targeting is still about as precise as carpet-bombing from a marketing perspective.
Web-based advertising such as Google AdWords provides a much more targeted marketing tool, which is also much more cost-effective. The accuracy of the targeting is significantly higher because it is based on a per-search, or per-user model rather than a general assumption about a broad cross-section of users.
Google expanded its advertising empire in 2009 with the acquisitions of AdMob and Teracent. AdMob adds advertising to mobile devices, and Teracent expands Google's ability to deliver targeted display ads.
Web-site banner ads have been more affordable than the traditional methods of advertising (television, radio, and print), but not really any more precise in terms of audience targeting. A manufacturer of golf gloves might pay for a display ad on ESPN.com because the average site visitor generally matches the desired demographic, but the ad would still be displayed to visitors who don't golf at all, or visitors who are currently buried under two feet of snow.
An ad like that might generate a response and more than pay for itself, but there is still a significant waste of advertising dollars displaying the ad to visitors who have no interest in, or use for, the product in question. Targeted display ads enable small and medium businesses to maximize their marketing campaigns and compete head-to-head with much larger corporate competitors.
The shift in marketing tactics also applies to the larger companies as television has become more watered down--hundreds of channels where there used to be just the three major networks, the radio audience is listening to MP3's, and newspapers and magazines are being forced to move to online-only models or shut down completely.
Google is the dominant player, but it is not the only game in town. Microsoft's Bing--in partnership with Yahoo--offers much of the same types of keyword and Web search-based advertising. Apple recently acquired Quattro to compete in the mobile advertising arena.
Everyone loves to watch a baby Clydesdale and a baby longhorn steer grow up to be best friends, and it's hard to ignore the massive audience drawn by the Super Bowl. But, a large portion of the people who saw that Budweiser ad doesn't even drink beer.
Fortunately, Web-based and mobile advertising allow businesses of all sizes to precisely target their campaigns and level the playing field when it comes to marketing.