Super Bowl Commercials are Just For Fun Say Most Viewers [Research]

Super Bowl Commercials are Just For Fun Say Most Viewers [Research]

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Wow, so you went big and spent $4M for a 30-second ad spot during the Super Bowl. You’re hoping that it will make a big splash with the viewers who will then come flocking to your brand, product or store. Well, you might have just made a $4M mistake because viewers really just see those ads as entertainment and the chance to influence a purchase may be lower than you think. Much, much lower than you think. Like, really low.

A new survey from the National Retail Federation may have just blasted a big hole in Super Bowl ad rates with a broadside blast of cannon fire aimed squarely at the bottom line. Granted, some brands, like Audi, have openly stated that the Super Bowl pays off for them. However, that may not be the case for tons of other brands according to the results of new research.

Who Plans on Watching Ads vs. the Game

The NRF survey is far from pretty, it’s like one big spreadsheet in fact. But the findings within are extremely interesting. They polled 6417 people about Super Bowl viewing habits, plans and thoughts. Amazingly, 24.6% said they don’t watch it, at all. Just under 36% said they watch for the game and, on a good note, almost one-in-five said they watch for the commercials. In terms of U.S. population, that’s an estimated 59M that don’t watch, 86M that watch for the game and 45M that watch for the ads. The survey alleges that it covers 240 million Americans. That means they roughly estimate that 181 million Americans “plan on watching the Super Bowl.” Of those 181 million Americans, a number very oddly close to the monthly U.S. online video viewers, 24.9% say they’re totally into the ads and not the game.

For my part, since my team isn’t in the big game this year I was planning on doing something constructive. Then I accidentally volunteered myself for live blogging duty to talk about the differences in the live TV ads versus the live streaming ads. Damn my big mouth. So on Sunday, or Monday, stop by to check out who was where with what when during the big game.

Opinions About Super Bowl Ads

One of the other interesting questions in the NRF survey was, “What are your opinions about Super Bowl TV commercials?” The very first answer made me chuckle because almost one-in-five viewers said Advertisers should save their money and pass the savings on to us. Ha! So much for making a splash with $4M. Almost 80% regard them merely as entertainment and not at all as advertising. That could go either way. Either that means the viewers are having fun and realize it’s all advertising. Or they think that it’s all pointless content made to entertain and has no bearing on a brand.

That second one may be the case because only 8.6% said that Super Bowl Ads influence them to buy products from the advertisers. Ouch. Eighte percent also said they influence them to search online for more info, 7.5% saw them as interruptions to the game, 16.9% said they create brand awareness and almost 10% said they make the game last too long. Almost five percent said they are bothered by them.

So, 78.4% of those planning to watch, or an NRF-estimated 142 million Americans think they’re simply entertainment. I will take a moment here to let that sink in for you.

Sunk in yet? No?

For $4M, which is not to mention the cost of producing the 30-second ad, you get 8.9M annoyed Americans (who are bothered by the ads), 15.6M Americans who might be influenced to by a product, 32.2M Americans who think you wasted money and should have lower pricing instead, 14.5M Americans who might search online for more info, 13.6M Americans who think you’re wasting their time by interrupting the game, 16.8M Americans who think you wasted their time and dragged the game out too long and 30.6M Americans who are aware of your brand, but may also feel any of the above. That’s roughly 10% “reach” for brand awareness not all of which may be good for your brand.

When you break out the numbers based on income in the under $50K and over $50K a year categories, there are vast differences.

For example, while 8.6% of viewers said it would influence a product buy, that turns into 10% for under $50K and 8.3% for over $50K. Most influenced are men 18-24 making less than $50K/yr in the South.

The group that most sees the ads as a waste of money? 25-34-year-old men making $50K or more in the Northeast.

Demographic most made aware of brands? Men 18-24 (income breakdown almost identical 17.3 vs 17.9%) in the Midwest.

I could go on like that for a long time, instead, I’ll give you the link to the report and let you do your own research on it. However, before I did that, I wanted to show you a chart of historical data I made from the second part of the results.

super bowl viewer ad sentiment

Overall, the numbers haven’t moved all that much in the past few years. They fluctuate year-to-year, yes, but there are no major swings or trends and right now things don’t look too bleak, aside from more Super Bowl viewers thinking the ads are a waste of money than believe they create brand awareness. But hey, advertising is a much-maligned necessity of the TV industry right?


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