What I Learned Gambling $3 Million on the Worst Super Bowl Ads
Today’s entrepreneurs are certainly younger and arguably bolder than those of my generation. They are creative and edgy, but when that’s the norm it becomes more and more challenging to stand out. That’s why stepping up the game becomes imperative. In fact, I would say, throwing your competitors that curve ball once in a while will pay off. It did for me.
I founded my sales-lead business, American Business List, in the 1970s out of my garage, which was filled with close to 5,000 Yellow Pages books. By the time I took my company public in the 1990s, it was time to change things up and make some noise to build the company’s brand – quickly. That’s when I invested $3 million to develop two Super Bowl ads. And let me add: They were no gems.
Following in the footsteps of some of the country’s biggest and best-known brands, including Pepsi, Snickers and Budweiser, I wanted to go to the Super Bowl. As the big game approaches this year, and I reflect on the biggest gamble of my life, I call on other entrepreneurs to make 2014 the boldest year of their life. Take that leap of faith and here are ways you can begin to plan.
Dream big. I’m sure we all have crazy ideas. Don’t dismiss your seemingly ‘craziest’ ideas – they might just be your most brilliant. Grow and nurture them in your head and share them with your most trusted team to help you devise a plan to make your ideas come to life.
My dreams have always appeared unrealistic to others. Coming to the United States from Rampur Maniharan, a small town in India, and becoming a successful businessman was unfathomable to my community. Having left my first company, I continued with my entrepreneurial roots, took my learnings and founded Infofree.com, a next-generation database and lead-generation business.
Get involved. Set high goals. Be involved in every aspect of your business and believe in your vision. For me, a gamble on the Super Bowl was no exception. Both ads had to be produced in the span of one week, which involved more than a few sleepless nights and a steep learning curve on a task that was new to me. My staff thought I had lost my mind, but I knew that I had to see this through. Now that I am running a private company, I have even more time to focus on business decisions.
What’s your next big idea? Don’t rest on your laurels. One touchdown alone will not win you the game. Absolutely celebrate your successes, but never stop looking for the next big opportunity. The Super Bowl ad definitely got people talking about our brand, but we could not count on that alone.
These days, I continue to take calculated risks – InfoFree.com is a growing business and is helping small businesses in this country grow theirs. Of course, I have plans to be bold. Stay tuned.
Vin Gupta is the founder of San Mateo, Calif.-based InfoFree.com, which provides sales leads to salespeople and small businesses, and Database USA, a provider of big databases and database marketing to enterprise customers. He also founded Infousa and SalesGenie, which he sold in 2010.