Super Bowl TV ads don’t score for Mazda

While the Japanese automaker plans to boost its marketing budget this year as it launches the Mazda 2 small car, running TV ads during the National Football League’s championship game in February won’t happen.

“You’re never going to see us on Super Bowl,” Mazda North American chief Jim O’Sullivan said at the Detroit auto show. “We’re not going to spend that kind of money on that kind of property because, yeah, you get a lot of impressions and stuff out there, but the fact of the matter is, do you really get to the target you really wanted? That’s more of a feel-good ad for a lot of people.”

O’Sullivan said it was a “given” that Mazda’s media budget will be up in the first quarter, as well as for the year, although he didn’t say by how much. He said Mazda, which expects its U.S. sales to possibly rise faster than the overall market this year, will spend more on social media and digital advertising this year as it tries to reach younger buyers for its late summer launch of the new 2 model.

However, O’Sullivan said advertising on the Super Bowl — where Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, and Germany’s Volkswagen will advertise this year — is more about the creativity of the spots than the product or service being sold.

“The one thing about the Super Bowl too, if you’re going to go and do ads at the Super Bowl, you better make sure you got some very good creative because you’ll get criticized for your ads if you don’t have very strong creative,” he said. “So is it about selling cars or is this an agency’s competition? They’re memorable in some cases, but that’s a very expensive property.”

“I’d rather take those resources and go where our customers are and focus on what our brand is,” O’Sullivan added.

Don’t cry for CBS. In early December it had already sold about 90 percent of its ad spots for the big game at almost $3 million for 30 seconds.

Always the biggest advertising event of the year, commercial rates are far above what is paid for any other TV event, partly because the game draws around 95 million U.S. viewers. Despite the recession last year, NBC still sold out all of its Super Bowl ad spots for a record $206 million.