Americans love to keep score. On Feb. 1, Super Bowl Sunday, every advertiser, marketer and ad-minded consumer in America will go to bed elated (or maybe depressed), bellies full of too much nachos, wings and beer. The next day, they'll wake up and log on to find out the winners of the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter, an annual survey of TV commercials conducted in a live poll during the Super Bowl broadcast.
Sadly, these inquisitive minds will get less than half the story.
When it comes to Super Bowl advertising, the data is clear: The smartest brands know the real game is won online, specifically on YouTube—not on TV. In fact, the best ads that kick proverbial USA Today Ad Meter butt are often not the same ads that do well online.
Let's start with a seemingly simple example: Among last year's Super Bowl commercials was a spot about a dad who kept saving his son from accidents. It showed that there comes a time in a boy's life when dad simply can't do what this brand's automobile can do. It was a big consumer hit and a definite top 10 USA Today winner.
We hired a national research firm to survey over 1,000 Super Bowl viewers to ask which car company made the ad: Chrysler, Ford, Toyota or Hyundai. The most common answer was Ford—and it was wrong.
Of respondents who said they had watched last year's Super Bowl ads, only 15% correctly identified Hyundai as the advertiser. This is a shame—Hyundai found a simple, heartfelt way to convey a salient attribute about a car: automatic emergency breaking.
Of course, chances are, the likelihood of purchasing a Hyundai just after the game increased. And that is just great if you're buying a car two days after the Super Bowl. But the real key is to stay in the consumer's consciousness longer than it takes for those nachos to digest.
By contrast, we asked the same respondents if they remembered two other automotive spots that had bigger, longer-running YouTube campaigns: one about British villains converging in London (Jaguar) and a spot about music legend Bob Dylan (Chrysler). Of those who remembered watching the Super Bowl ads, respondents identified "British
The Jaguar and Chrysler Super Bowl ads had three things in common: They both aired during the game, were definitely not winners in the USA Today poll (scoring firmly in the middle of the pack) and—wait for it—they slayed it on YouTube. A recent check of YouTube numbers showed that Jaguar "British Villains 'Rendezvous'" had 12.6 million YouTube views and Chrysler "America's Import" 11.7 million views.
These marketers obviously get that YouTube gains special powers when it comes to the Super Bowl.
More than 100 million people will watch the Super Bowl for a little more than three hours. But according to the YouTube Trends dashboard, ad viewers will watch Super Bowl spots online more than 265 million times, totaling 3.2 million hours. In a world where the scarcest resource is human attention, consumers who watch an ad multiple times on multiple screens are more likely to engage and recall your brand.
Combining TV with a defined YouTube strategy increases awareness and engagement. But the target rating points online are vastly cheaper than game day TV ads. Plus, online distribution makes your Super Bowl spend work harder. Even brands that don't advertise on the Super Bowl know this is the best time to promote their brands online—sometimes even weeks before the game. New Castle, McDonald's, Tide and eSurance all created terrific "fake punt" strategies last year.
We analyzed last year's ads and found at least a dozen Super Bowl advertisers that did not have a sustained, targeted, well-planned YouTube strategy. Based on our analysis, we identified seven deadly Super Bowl sins, including:
- Advertising at the channel level vs. the URL level: It should be an advertising sin to buy on YouTube using keywords, cookies or channel. Targeting at this aggregate level is fraught with brand challenges. The NFL faced a PR firestorm regarding its handling of sexual assault and domestic violence cases involving players. As an advertiser, the last thing you want is your Super Bowl ad featuring cute, talking puppies, for example, appearing next to any content connected to the Ray Rice elevator assault video. "Precise digital targeting is the holy grail of digital marketing," says Paul Calento, the co-founder of TriVu Media, a firm specializing in helping brands target ads on YouTube. "Media buyers should punt any YouTube provider who cannot ensure videos are targeted down to the actual video [URL] level."
- Failure to advertise early and often: Take a lesson from Budweiser's cuteness overdose featuring a Clydesdale and a bunch of Labrador puppies. The beer maker released its 100% adorable "Puppy Love" ad on Jan. 29—days before the game. The result? "Puppy Love" was the most shared Super Bowl ad, with close to 1.14 million shares before the game even kicked off. The spot ran on national TV 75 times and on local affiliates another 1,200 times prior to the game. In fact, Super Bowl spot pre-release is becoming something of a trend, with consumers watching one in five Super Bowl ads before the game last year.
Overall, we found nearly 18% of all 2014 Super Bowl advertisers made unnecessary mistakes when planning their YouTube strategies.
Ben Legg, CEO of Adknowledge and former senior executive at powerhouse brands Coke and Google, puts it this way: "Any agency that isn't developing a robust YouTube strategy along with its Super Bowl TV ad plan should be fired."
About the Author
Anita Newton is the VP-corporate marketing at Adknowledge. She led marketing efforts at P&G, Sprint, Zave Networks (acquired by Google) previously. She's a proud Kansas Jayhawk (Rock Chalk!) and has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Follow her at @AnitaBNewton on Twitter.
About the Company
Adknowledge is a digital advertising technology company working with large brand advertisers and agencies to get the best ROI from their digital marketing budgets. With locations on four continents, Adknowledge unlocks digital audiences through video, social media, apps, email and content recommendation. TriVu Media is Adknowledge's YouTube advertising platform, which provides brand-safe advertising on YouTube at scale.