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Most Super Bowl Viewers Tune in for the Commercials Nielsen Says

Super Bowl Ads Are Most Effective Early in the Game, Despite Appealing to Different Audiences

New York, NY – January 20, 2010 – The majority of Super Bowl viewers enjoy the game’s ads more than the action on the field, according to results of a survey released today by The Nielsen Company. Fifty-one percent of those questioned said they most enjoy the commercials that air throughout the game when compared to the Super Bowl game itself. Forty-nine percent said that they enjoy the game more than the ads. Results were based on a sample of over 25,000 households in Nielsen’s Homescan panel.

 

“This survey reinforces the value of the Super Bowl as a marketing bonanza, featuring one of the most receptive TV audiences in the world,” said Randall Beard, executive vice president of Nielsen IAG. “With so many viewers waiting for the pitch, the pressure is on advertisers to create and place ads that will have a lasting impact.”

 

The poll was one of many new findings Nielsen released in a comprehensive study of the trends and effectiveness of paid Super Bowl advertising. Other Super Bowl insights uncovered by Nielsen include:

  • Ads that run early in the game are better remembered and better liked than those airing later in the game.
  • A “winning” spot can vary depending on an advertiser’s goals and target demographics.
  • Traffic to advertiser Web sites spiked on the day after last year’s Super Bowl.
  • In the last five years, the biggest Super Bowl advertiser is Anheuser-Busch, which spent over $100 million on its Bud and Bud Light brands alone.
  • Motion Pictures form the biggest category of ad spending, which leads to an immediate surge in online buzz for the advertised films.  

 

EARLIER IS BETTER

It’s no secret that Super Bowl ads on average are more effective than the typical television commercial. But when it comes to ad placement, one trend is clear: earlier really is better. Ads placed in the first quarter of the Super Bowl are better remembered and are better liked. There is a steep drop-off as the game progresses until the fourth quarter, when ad performance settles at a level that is closer to the average for all television ads.

  

SUPER BOWL ADVERTISING EFFECTIVENESS, BY QUARTER
See PDF for chart

 

“Even in the Super Bowl, viewers can fall victim to ‘ad fatigue,’” said Beard. “Viewers have difficulty maintaining such a high level of focus for that many ads. It doesn’t matter if the game is a blowout or a nail-biter.”

 

MOVING THE MARKETING GOALPOSTS

 

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” formula for creating a winning Super Bowl ad. The marketing goalposts vary from one advertiser to another. A lesser-known brand might care more about general awareness than popularity, while a mature brand might aim to push a new message or boost opinion levels. Both of these strategies were evident in last year’s game:

  • A spot by first-time Super Bowl advertiser Cash4Gold.com achieved only average likeability levels. But the ad, which featured Ed McMahon and MC Hammer, ranked among the top 10 most memorable spots, alongside long-established brands like Bud Light and Doritos.
  • A Denny’s spot touting a free “Grand Slam breakfast to everyone in America” didn’t stand out as one of the best-liked ads. But it ranked highest in terms of “message understanding,” meaning it was especially effective in communicating a specific promotion to viewers.  

Advertisers also measure success based on targeted demographics. The three most liked ads in last year’s Super Bowl, for example, each had a very different appeal between men and women, with a Budweiser Clydesdale ad significantly better liked among women and a Doritos ad significantly better liked among men:

 

MOST LIKED ADS, SUPER BOWL XLIII

Brand

Ad Description

Likeability Index*

Performance Difference

Budweiser

Clydesdale fetches large tree branch

175

Women +35 pts

Doritos

Man bites chips and good things happen

153

Men +20 pts

Doritos

Man throws snow globe into vending machine

153

Equal (within 3 pts)

Source: The Nielsen Company


*The Likeability score is the percentage of viewers that reports to like “a lot” an ad they were exposed to during the normal course of viewing the Super Bowl, among those recalling the brand of the ad. These scores are then indexed against the average score for all Super Bowl ads (Likeability Index). 100 equals average

EXTRA POINTS ON THE WEB

 

A direct indicator of an ad’s effectiveness is traffic to an advertiser’s Web site. Next-day Web traffic to Super Bowl advertiser sites last year was up an average of 63%. Of those sites, the five most visited on the day after were all Web-based products and services:

 

 

MOST WEB TRAFFIC AMONG SUPER BOWL ADVERTISERS

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2009

Site

Unique Audience (000) 2/2/09

Sun 2/1/09 to Mon 2/2/09

% Growth

CareerBuilder

2,008

61%

Hulu

1,792

59%

Godaddy.com

1,220**

112%

Monster

831

70%

Overstock.com

728**

33%

ALL ADVERTISERS

9,147

63%

Source: The Nielsen Company

**These estimates are calculated on small sample sizes and are subject to increased statistical variability as a result

 

Super Bowl ads have an obvious short-term impact on Web traffic, while the longer-term is more mixed. Web traffic for Super Bowl advertisers climbed 6% between January and February ’09. But only two of the five Web-only companies cited above – Hulu (+104%) and GoDaddy (+67%) – showed actual month-to-month growth during that time.

 

 

WEB TRAFFIC AMONG SUPER BOWL ADVERTISERS,

JANUARY 09 TO FEBRUARY 09

Site

Unique Audience (000) January ’09

Unique Audience (000) February ’09

Jan-Feb

% Growth

CareerBuilder

20,778

18,246

-12%

Hulu

4,549

9,285

104%

Godaddy.com

2,256

3,758

67%

Monster

14,818

12,935

-13%

Overstock.com

11,692

10,422

-11%

ALL ADVERTISERS

50,850

54,147

6%

Source: The Nielsen Company

 

 BIG BRANDS MEAN BIG BUCKS

 

In the last five years more money was spent on Bud Light ($59.1 million) than any other brand. The top five brands over the last five years spent a total of $189.7 million on the Super Bowl, accounting for 13% of their entire Network TV ad spend during that time.

 

 

TOP 5 SUPER BOWL BRAND ADVERTISERS, 2005-09

Brand

Super Bowl Ad Spend 2005-09 (millions)

All Network TV Ad Spend 2005-09 (millions)

% of All Network TV Ad Spend

Bud Light

$59.1

$531.0

11.1%

Budweiser

$42.4

$330.1

12.8%

Coca-Cola

$34.1

$343.1

9.9%

CareerBuilder

$30.8

$102.9

29.9%

Pepsi

$23.4

$122.4

19.1%

TOTAL TOP 5

$189.7

$1,429.6

13.3%

Source: The Nielsen Company

Other brands have taken a more “eggs-in-one basket” approach when it comes to the Super Bowl. Nielsen estimates that Doritos spent almost 80% ($21.3 million) of its total Network TV ad budget over the last five years on the Super Bowl. GoDaddy.com, with its controversial advertising, spent 57% ($20.9 million) of its Network TV budget in the last half decade on the Super Bowl.

 

 

GET YOUR BEER HERE (AND MOVIES, TOO)

 

Movies and beer are the top Super Bowl advertisers over the past five years. During that time movie studios spent $117.4 million; last year alone they promoted eight different movies, representing $42 million in ad spend.

 

TOP SUPER BOWL ADVERTISERS, BY CATEGORY 2005-09

Product Category

Super Bowl Ad Spend,
2005-09 (millions)

Super Bowl Ad Spend, 2009 (millions)

Motion Picture

$117.4

$42.0

Beer

$114.2

$27.0

Automotives

$108.6

$18.0

Soft Drinks

$92.1

$27.0

Website-Employment Svcs

$36.8

$12.0

TOTAL TOP 5

$469.0

$126.0

Source: The Nielsen Company

 

The relative splurge on motion picture advertising paid immediate dividends in terms of online buzz. Internet chatter, one of the leading indicators of interest in upcoming movies, saw significant spikes with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen leading the way.

 

BUZZ CREATED BY MOVIES ADVERTISED DURING SUPER BOWL XLIII’

See PDF for chart

 

ADVERTISING BETWEEN COMMERCIAL BREAKS

 

Advertising isn’t limited to commercial breaks. Many Super Bowl camera angles include on-field signage, apparel logos, and any other space where brands are clever enough to place their names.

 

Repucom International, a company that’s entered into an exclusive agreement to integrate Nielsen’s television audience ratings data with their measurement of in-game sports sponsorship, tracked on-screen brand occurrences during last year’s game. They found Gatorade scored the most screen time in Super Bowl XLIII with 191 on-screen exposures for a total of 11 minutes and 44 seconds.

 

TOP 5 MOST EXPOSED BRANDS IN SUPER BOWL XLIII

Brand

Exposures

Duration (min:sec)

Gatorade

191

11:44

Reebok

282

8:21

Motorola

165

5:36

Riddell

93

2:31

Bridgestone

11

2:16

Source: Repucom International 2009