"Live" commercials during Super Bowl LI? Sigh.

Travis Lusk
Travis Lusk

News is floating around that Fox plans to air live commercials during the February 5th, 2017 Super Bowl. All we have to say is: why?

A screenshot of the official Super Bowl LI website on nfl.com devotes a ton of real estate to fans of the commercials.

Linear television broadcasting has been struggling for years to make itself more relevant. The innovation (if you can call it that) has shown limited progress at best. There isn't all that much you can do in a linear broadcast of 30-second spots, grouped together into ad pods.

The use of live commercials in content is far from new. However, it begs the question: What's the ROI of a live commercial? Particularly in the Super Bowl!

The Super Bowl is the one program every year where you know people are actually watching the commercials. No other program or event has an entire subculture of people that just watch for the ads.

Furthermore, the ads in the Super Bowl are often talked about around the water cooler at work the next day more than the game itself.

So why mess with the one thing on TV that's a sure bet? If you are running a spot in the Super Bowl, you've already coughed up millions for the spot, and millions on the creative. Why add on a super premium to have it "live" versus taped?

The whole idea of a live Super Bowl commercial seems awfully kitschy. Take whatever you would spend on the premium for the live ad, and spend it on better writers for a taped spot. Plus, you'll be able to continue airing it for weeks after the game.

Here's a little prediction for the post-Super Bowl LI chatter around the live commercial:

"Hey, did you watch last night?"


"Did you see that live commercial for ____ ?"

"Yeah I did. Kinda weird."

Viewers will notice all of the efforts to pull off a live spot, but it will add up to what? It is just a novelty that is not worth the extra cost.

Travis Lusk Twitter

Opinionated digital advertising practitioner, consultant for Fortune 100 Brands, and writer at ADLINGO.org.