…and that’s not even counting production costs for a 30-second spot, which can easily cost more than some indie films. How can that kind of money possibly be worth it? According to Haiyang Yang, a marketing professor at Johns Hopkins’ Carey School of Business, sometimes it is–and sometimes it isn’t.

In an interview with the Hopkins Hub, Yang says that high-profile ads help build (or solidify) a brand’s identity among the viewing public. Super Bowl ads have become a cultural item of interest on their own; they often provoke lots of post-game discussion and analysis, which provides companies with even more attention. That heightened level of scrutiny can be a double-edged sword, however — your ad has to be exceptionally smart or funny or cool-looking to garner attention. And any fail becomes a really really big fail, when it comes to Super Bowl ads.

“About half of the game’s viewers reportedly tune in just to see the ads, so that raises the stakes for advertisers even more,” Yang says. “These are viewers who aren’t just comparing this year’s ads with one another but also with Super Bowl ads from the past, which are some of the best TV commercials ever made. If viewers feel that a company didn’t execute its advertising well, then that can speak to the competency of the company in some consumers’ minds.”

That consideration, plus the fact that the NFL is currently a “troubled brand,” might make the potential ROI on a Super Bowl ad less-than-favorable. Unless you make expensive, heart-string-tugging ads like this one, which has already been viewed more than 8 million times–before it has even officially “aired”!

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