Super Bowl Ads Best Seen Early

Super Bowl Ads Best Seen Early

The upcoming Super Bowl holds the potential to be a “marketing bonanza,” according to recent research on trends and effectiveness of paid Super Bowl advertising from The Nielsen Company.

Perhaps most significantly, a slight majority of respondents, 51%, said they like the commercials more than the Super Bowl itself. Forty-nine percent of respondents would rather watch the football action.

The Early Bird Catches the Advertising Worm

Super Bowl advertisers looking to maximize audience response to their ads are advised to show them early in the game, preferably the first quarter. In terms of general recall, 69% of viewers remember ads aired during the first quarter. This percentage drops to 67% in the second quarter, 65% in the third quarter, and 58% in the fourth quarter.

Brand linkage shows a similar deterioration as the game progresses. Eighty-six percent link ads they see in the first quarter with the corresponding brands. This percentage drops to 79% in the second quarter, 77% in the third quarter, and 75% in the fourth quarter.

Although a slight majority of viewers watch the Super Bowl more for the ads than the game, likeability ratings of ads shown throughout the telecast are surprisingly low. Ads shown in the first quarter have a 40% likeability rating, which drops to 34% in the second quarter, 31% in the third quarter and 25% in the fourth quarter.


“Even in the Super Bowl, viewers can fall victim to ‘ad fatigue,’ ” said Randall Beard, EVP of Nielsen IAG. “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.”

Super Bowl Ads Can Boost Web Traffic

Super Bowl ads can boost the Web traffic of the companies that run them, especially in the short term. Among all Super Bowl XLIII advertisers in 2009, overnight Web traffic as measured by unique audience grew an average of 63%. Growth in unique audience from January to February 2009 grew an average of 6%.


However, a look at the overnight and monthly performance of some leading web-only companies that advertised during Super Bowl XLIII indicates strong immediate results don’t always last. Monster saw its unique audience grow 70% overnight, but decline 13% between January and February 2009. The one Web-only company that had better January-February growth than overnight growth was, whose overnight traffic grew 59% but monthly traffic grew 104%.


Other Insights

Other insights from Nielsen’s research include:

  • A “winning spot” can vary depending on an advertiser’s goals and target demographics.
  • 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.

Advertisers seeking to improve the low likeability ratings of Super Bowl ads should pay attention to recent Nielsen research on the best-liked TV commercials of last year. For the first 11 months of 2009, a 30-second Budweiser ad – in which a Clydesdale fetches a large tree branch – received a likeability index score of 217 and topped the list of favorite commercials. A 30-second spot for Starburst in which a man and a llama feed candy to each other received a score of 204. A Doritos commercial featuring a man throwing a snow globe into a vending machine (193), an ad for Cottonelle with a pampered puppy (191), and Pedigree pet food spot showcasing large and unusual pets (190) rounded out the top five.

Another Budweiser Clydesdale ad, which was 60-seconds long, clocked in at #6, with a score of 186. Starburst also made the list again at #7.

About the Research: Results were based on a sample of more than 25,000 households in Nielsen’s Homescan panel.