Super Bowl Advertisers Do Best on Radio, Study Hints

Times Staff Writer

The 36 companies who paid up to $1 million for a minute of advertising on ABC's telecast of Super Bowl XIX last month might have gotten more for their money had they advertised on CBS radio, where a minute of advertising during the broadcast cost only $24,000, a new study suggests.

The 42-page study, conducted by Bergenfield, N.J.-based Centrac Inc. on behalf of the New York ad agency J. Walter Thompson USA, surveyed 400 men and women and found that 7% listened to the Super Bowl on radio where a minute of advertising sold for less than 3% of the television price.

"The media focus of Super Bowl XIX was on ABC's television coverage. Radio . . . also played an important role," the study said.

Said Ron Kaatz, a J. Walter Thompson vice president who oversaw the study: "In terms of absolute numbers you'd be better off on radio. . . . You could still say (in promotions) that you were a sponsor on the Super Bowl. For the guy who is already advertising on the (TV) Super Bowl, it (radio) provides an added impact."

An ABC spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The new study comes in the wake of widespread debate in advertising circles about whether the $1-million-a-minute commercial on this year's Super Bowl was worthwhile. Although the event is traditionally one of the highest-rated TV broadcasts, some experts have speculated that many viewers skipped Super Bowl commercials to visit the restroom, rush to the kitchen or debate the game with colleagues.

The study confirmed that viewers are inattentive during commercial breaks--particularly during halftime: "Thirty percent of the game's viewers reported watching none of the halftime , and 25% watched only some of it." Moreover, the study said, only half of the male viewers and 33% of the females were able to recall one or more commercials without prompting.

It recommended that advertisers try harder to produce "creative" commercials that "make an impact" and that advertisers supplement their television commercials with advertising in other media.

Yet while the study showed that radio ad rates may be a bargain compared to television, some experts say radio may not be the salvation for advertisers that it appears to be.

"I think you have to put this in perspective," said David Waterman, a Los Angeles-based media consultant and an adjunct professor at USC's Annenberg School of Communication. "The main advantage of TV is the impact of its visual image. In spite of its faults, it's more of an attention-holding medium than radio is. But I do think radio is often underestimated as an advertising medium."

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