I was kinda disappointed by the ads on the Super Bowl this year. The game itself was at least competitive and fairly entertaining (for a hockey fan), but nothing really stood out as a “great” commercial. I’ve always been amazed that companies can spend so many millions of dollars on just 30 seconds of airtime. Yes, lots of people are watching. (Are they paying attention…or drinking & eating? Well, the TV is on at least.) But I questioned if there were better ways to spend the dough.

Most of the companies that buy ad time during the big game are huge consumer goods-type companies, the kind that can afford to do all sorts of “real” promotion during the year…and then tack on a big SB ad for good measure. For the other 99% of businesses, there are far more effective options for spending a million advertising dollars.

The great news is that you don’t need a huge advertising budget to spend on marketing or PR to share your ideas or your offerings anymore. The Internet has leveled the playing field for most. With great content, some well placed SEO dollars, a great viral video or some effective email list and/or social network building, small companies can compete with much larger ones.

Of course, writing the content takes both your time and expertise, or hiring a competent writer to help out. But many of the ways that content is shared online these days are completely free, like most social networks or blogging platforms.

And sure, email marketing isn’t free… but the marginal costs to reach additional people once a campaign has been created are almost nothing. So who wins or loses depends more on having a good online communications strategy, and less on having the biggest checkbook. For someone who likes rooting for the underdog, I like that.