NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Most brand name marketers aren't intimidated by the likelihood that the average price of a 30-second TV commercial during the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 will exceed last year's $4.2 million.
All marketers, that is, except automakers.
Car makers will have a "smaller footprint" in this year's game, according to research by WPP (WPPGY) subsidiary Kantar Media. Based on corporate announcements so far, two brands, Volkswagen and Jaguar, won't be returning for the 2015 game.
Volkswagen said it wasn't an issue of price, insisting in an emailed statement that it "opted to not participate due to other priorities and initiatives."
As for Jaguar, the luxury car maker said its decision to advertise during the 2014 Super Bowl was tied specifically to the launch of a new flagship sports car, the Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe. Even before the 2014 game, Jaguar spokesman Stuart Schorr said in an email, the company had already decided its presence at the Super Bowl wouldn't be repeated.
"Traditionally, automakers in the past have used the timing of the Super Bowl to support marketing launches of new vehicles or redesigned vehicles," said Jon Swallen, Kantar's chief research officer, in a phone interview.
Car makers, he added, may also have determined that the return on investment from Super Bowl advertisements isn't enough to warrant the cost. Some companies are shifting to digital media advertising and the Super Bowl remains mostly a mass-marketing event, he said.
"For some of these automakers it's just the Super Bowl has priced itself out of the market -- for this year at least," he said, adding that the cost of a Super Bowl spot would likely increase again for the 2016 game.
Along with automakers, some Silicon Valley advertisers have also been slow to embrace this year's Super Bowl, said Seth Winter, sales executive at Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report) division NBC Sports Group, during a recent conference call with reporters.
"Some of the technology companies that we hope may still be there have not yet shown themselves to be there," while the wireless category was "a little bit weaker than we'd like," he said.
But Super Bowl viewers can once again expect to see a large number of beer, soda and gaming spots. Fifteen new companies will also be advertising, said Winter.
The average rate for a 30-second ad grew 75% in the past decade and demand has been "healthy" yet again for the 2015 game, Kantar Media said in a report released Thursday.
The average cost to run a 30-second spot during the big game grew each year from 2010 to 2014 and the total ad spend for each of those years grew along with it, said Kantar. The average cost to run a Super Bowl spot increased from $4 million in 2013 to $4.2 million in 2014, with total ad revenue growing from $292 million to $331.8 million, the research company said. It's the most expensive commercial time on TV by far, said Kantar.
The cost to run a spot during the Super Bowl increased to $4.5 million this year, but if an advertiser buys multiple spots the cost dips to $4.4 million per ad, NBC Sports Group spokesman Chris McCloskey said Wednesday. Despite the higher price this year, spots were 95% sold out as of Jan. 7, Winter said during the conference call.
The 2014 Super Bowl was the fourth straight year with a "glut" of ads from car makers, said Kantar. A "whopping" $113 million was spent by 11 different car brands and the category represented more than 25% of total ad time in the game last year, it said.
From 2005 through 2014, the Super Bowl game has generated $2.19 billion of network advertising sales from more than 130 marketers, making it one of the most valuable sports franchises in the U.S., said Kantar.
While Super Bowl ad pricing has grown, the volume of commercial time in the game has also been expanding, said Kantar. The past five Super Bowls have been the most ad-saturated in history, each including more than 47 minutes of commercial time, it said. That includes paying sponsors, commercial messages from the National Football League and promotional announcements from the network for its own shows, said Kantar. Despite the high cost of air time in the Super Bowl, a "significant proportion" of advertisers "opt to spend even more by running longer length" spots, it said.
In the past five years, the top five Super Bowl advertisers have spent $456.6 million on network advertising during the game, representing 35 percent of total ad revenue, said Kantar. Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU - Get Report) "lead the pack," followed by Pepsico (PEP - Get Report) , Hyundai and Volkswagen, said Kantar.
"We're passing on this year's game," Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor said Wednesday, without giving a reason. Fiat Chrysler didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kantar's Swallen didn't hear anything specific about the Super Bowl ad plans of Chrysler and Hyundai, he said. "Chrysler, in the past, has either not made an advance announcement at all about their participation in the Super Bowl or has waited until the last week before they've made a public announcement about their participation," he said.
In the past three or four Super Bowls in which Hyundai has run spots, its announcement was made no later than about three weeks prior to the game, he said. "We're about at that point right now, and they haven't said boo, which makes me think that they might not be in the Super Bowl this year," he said.