Super Bowl ad space is one of the most coveted for advertisers, who paid around $5.25 million to CBS for a 30-second spot on Super Bowl 2019, an increase of 60% from what it cost in 2008.
You would think that with the advent of digital streaming services, which provide many viewing alternatives for those who are not football fans, and given reported declines in NFL viewership in the last couple years, demand and hence the cost of a Super Bowl ad would go down. So why do Super Bowl ad spots keep going up in price?
One of the reasons could be that social media fuels the viral effect as consumers watch and share their favorite Super Bowl ads. So rather than digital platforms deterring Super Bowl viewership and therefore ad views, they may be a powerful complement.
Pex, a company that delivers video and music analytics and rights management services, tracked views of 28 Super Bowl ads before, during, and after Super Bowl Sunday on 24 video and social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Ads tracked include Amazon, Pepsi, Toyota, Old Spice, Budweiser, Stella Artois, Pepsi, and Doritos, among others.
The results show that despite a snoozing Super Bowl that led to a low televised audience around 98.2 million viewers, ads were watched massively online before and after the game. On Thursday and Friday before the Super Bowl, the 28 ads tracked had already been viewed about 105 million times across the original YouTube ads and more than 1,000 re-uploads, including both organic and pre-roll views (ads that play before a YouTube video, for example). 65% of the re-uploads included the full commercial. Clearly, some advertisers could have started their Super Bowl party as early as Friday night, had they been aware of these numbers and the corresponding early success of their campaigns.
Interestingly, on Saturday alone, viewership of these ads on digital platforms tapered off to less then 30 million. Was it the rush to get ready for the big day, with shopping, kids sports, errands, keeping fans away from the screens? Possibly. On Sunday, as would be expected, views of the ads went up again to about 45 million, as the graph above shows. Then, notice the very interesting spike on Monday, probably as Super Bowl fans searched to see their favorite ads again, and as the viral effect of popular ads in social media platforms went into effect. On Tuesday, viewership went back to average pre-Sunday levels, and then on Wednesday and Thursday the ad fever subsided, for the most part.
According to PEX, by Friday morning the top ads in online views across the 24 platforms before, during, and after the Super Bowl were:
Amazon - 45.9 million views on 108 copies
Pepsi - 36.8 million views on 812 copies
Lexus - 25.1 million views on 28 copies
These revealing numbers of digital views of Super Bowl ads show the complementary nature of traditional and digital media for advertisers. For the Amazon ad, that's almost 50% more viewership when you add online views. Ad viewership numbers for the Super Bowl magnify the increasingly social phenomenon of content consumption. The bang for the buck when advertisers invest in commercials is no longer just driven by TV broadcast viewership, but is also reflected in the potential viral effect in digital channels, fueled by social media.
After all, content consumption is social. The power of TV broadcast for mass consumption, coupled with shares and likes in digital platforms, increasingly make mass media and social media a powerful combination for advertisers.