Winning on Super Bowl Sunday is often difficult for the competing teams, but for advertisers, making their commercials stand out can be even more complicated, according to a University of Guelph professor.

Commercials for this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots will cost the most ever, $4.5 million U.S. for 30 seconds of airtime. The ads air in the U.S. or can be seen by Canadians online; it was announced today, that in response to Canadians requesting it, those ads will be seen in Canada starting in 2017.

Prof. Timothy Dewhirst, Marketing and Consumer Studies, said these commercials can have a huge impact for a company and also change the future for advertising agencies.

“In some cases, a very good ad could set an advertiser up for many more opportunities and a high career trajectory,” said Dewhirst, who studies advertising and branding.

“However, having an ad that does not resonate with consumers or damages a brand could lead to someone getting fired. These ads are a big investment. It’s amazing to think how much is riding on 30 seconds.”

The television market is becoming increasingly fragmented, he noted, with most high-rated TV shows reaching nowhere near the ratings of popular shows from 20 or 30 years ago. More viewers watch online or record shows in order to fast-forward through commercials.

The Super Bowl, however, still draws an audience. Last year’s championship game between the Seahawks and Denver Broncos drew more than 111 million American viewers, making it the most watched Super Bowl ever.

“The game is such a big draw; it’s definitely a different audience than a typical NFL Sunday,” said Dewhirst.

“For the Super Bowl, you have a very large and diverse audience. And people want to see the ads, so they’re highly unlikely to leave the room during a commercial break.”

Companies need to make their ads memorable, he said.

“Now, ads have to entertain. They have to be something people discuss online or talk about the next day at work. These ads can define a brand,” he said.

“Budweiser is well known for their Clydesdale horses and for having timely ads, especially after the September 11 attacks, when the horses looked at the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline and bowed.”

“Go Daddy made a name for itself with risqué ads that often involved scantily clad women and humour. It may not have been to everyone’s taste, but people remembered them. They went from being an unknown company to being very recognized.”

Go Daddy was one of many companies that posted their ads online before this year’s game, which Dewhirst said can build interest in a commercial. However, Go Daddy’s ad about selling puppies drew anger from critics of puppy mills. The company has pulled the commercial.

Dewhirst said more companies are looking to involve their audience in their ads before games.

Doritos conducts a contest each year to have people submit ads and allow the public to vote on them. The winning commercial plays during the Super Bowl.

The crowd-sourcing strategy has proved popular, but Dewhirst said there is no guaranteed way to have a successful Super Bowl ad.

“You can go with the provocative ads, like Carl’s Jr. with the beautiful model who may not be wearing much, or with celebrities, such as Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel in a BMW electric car. You can involve and engage your audience as Doritos does or try to appeal emotionally like Budweiser did after September 11. But there is no magical formula for making a winning ad. In the end, it comes down to hoping your ad resonates with your audience and builds your brand.”