Are People Losing Interest In Super Bowl Commercials?



Once upon a time, people watched the Super Bowl telecast more for the commercials than for the game itself. They never knew from year to year whether anything in the game would be  a big surprise, but they were sure many of the ads would be. Now, one piece of research shows consumers may be losing interest in the ads, especially if social sharing of Super Bowl spots is any indication. This metric “has dropped dramatically,” says a January 20 Advertising Age report, and releasing the commercials ahead of time may be the reason.

While social sharing grew 22 percent from 2013 to last year for the average ad overall, social sharing of Super Bowl content decreased 29 percent.

You might very well think that this 51 percent spread resulted from what Ad Age calls “the growing glut” of pre-game ad releases totally destroying the element of surprise, but for Richard Kosinski, US president of the video ad tech firm that anaylzed the 4,000 most-shared videos on social networks, that kind of thinking is naively logical.  For him, the problem isn’t the sheer volume of beans that advertisers are spilling with all those pre-game releases – it’s when they’re doing it. And when they’re doing it, he says, is either too early or too late, because the best time to release a Super Bowl ad online is the Wednesday before kickoff. (Maybe he’s a fan of 17th Century Bishop James Ussher, who calculated that the world was created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BCE, at 9 o’clock in the morning.)

But according to a separate study, it doesn’t really matter when you release your Super Bowl advertising, because whenever you do, next to nobody’s going to notice it. Research firm Communicus found that while 45 percent of consumers were aware of a typical Super Bowl commercial, only 3 percent recalled having seen it online before game time. This suggests to CEO Jeri Smith that public relations and promotion programs work better than just putting your spot up on YouTube or Facebook. Last year’s Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” promotion generated 24 percent brand awareness, she said. By comparison, the average pre-game promotion generates 9 percent awareness, and the typical in-game commercial 15 percent.

All this number crunching neglects the possibility that what makes a commercial capture people’s attention and involvement is not when it’s released or how it’s promoted, but the commercial itself. Having discovered that the most-shared Super Bowl ad videos – VW’s “The Force” and Budweiser’s series of literal dog-and-pony shows – feature children and animals, Kosinski dazzles us with a blinding insight into the glaringly obvious: Commercials that engage people’s emotions are more effective than commercials that don’t. How ’bout that?

Thanks, Dick. All of us who’ve been creating effective, award-winning commercials for years never would’ve guessed that.


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