Super Bowl

Advertisers Spend Big for YouTube Views of Super Bowl Ads

But Some, Like T-Mobile, Pay Almost Nothing As Post Game Battle Continues

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Listen up, Oscar advertisers. Those YouTube views of ads on big events often thought of as free can cost actually plenty, according to a study of Super Bowl advertising from Google preferred marketing developer Strike. The study, however, found there's a big gap between advertisers who get almost all their online views free and those who pay dearly.

By one way of looking at it, advertisers paid more to get online video views for their Super Bowl content on YouTube, at least through early Feb. 9, than to buy ads on the game itself – at least on a cost per thousand basis. (Yes, they are still paying for YouTube views of Big Game ads). Through today, advertisers spent $19.3 million for more than 311 million YouTube views of their Super Bowl content, 195 million of them paid, according to Strike estimates. That comes to a CPM of more than $62, vs. around $39 for a 30-second spot on the Big Game this year.

Strike CEO Patrick McKenna hastens to note that by a broader measure of total impressions, including videos that started but were stopped by users short of 30 seconds, YouTube remains considerably cheaper than the Super Bowl. YouTube doesn't charge for those impressions, which numbered more than 800 million through Feb. 9 and brought the CPM under $17 for total impressions according to Strike.

Strike's business is managing YouTube campaigns to maximize impact per dollar spent, which involves targeting the paid views most effectively and analyzing content to maximize sharing.

Mr. McKenna said that advertisers will eventually stop buying so many views and keep racking up free ones, bringing down cost over time.

"My expectation is that the earned views end up being in line with the paid views," he said. He added that YouTube viewers generally are directly engaged in watching the video, while households counted as watching them on TV are more likely to be otherwise engaged, or even out of the room.

And some advertisers were clearly making out like bandits on YouTube. Through Feb. 4, a full 98% of T-Mobile's 14.7 million views were unpaid, giving it a CPM around $2 even on full-fledged views. While comments were largely negative, the ad featuring Kim Kardashian did generate a lot of discussion and sharing, Mr. McKenna said.

On the other hand, Bud Light got only 26% of the views of its live Pacman ad for free on YouTube, according to Strike, paying $1.1 million for its total of 14.8 million paid and organic views through Feb. 4. That comes to a pricey $74 CPM, though not counting uncompleted views or future organic views.

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