Those of us in the adver­tis­ing pro­fes­sion don’t view the Super Bowl like most Amer­i­cans. Let’s face it – most peo­ple will be focused on watch­ing their big screen TVs, eat­ing Super Bowl munchies, and hop­ing for their favorite team to score another touch­down. Mar­keters, how­ever, think of this event as the Holy Grail of adver­tis­ing. We run into the room when the com­mer­cials start, and admit­tedly some of us even tune out when the foot­ball action resumes. For mar­keters, it’s our oppor­tu­nity to be inspired by the world’s best cre­ative tal­ent. Most impor­tantly, it’s our moment to truly enter­tain, inspire and emo­tion­ally touch con­sumers dur­ing one of the biggest TV events of the year. In the back of our minds, how­ever, a huge ques­tion looms: Is this the best we can do as mar­keters? Should we still be spend­ing that much money on a seem­ingly untar­geted and untrack­able sports event?

Dig­i­tal mar­keters are held to a higher stan­dard nowa­days. Mea­sure­ment, tar­get­ing, and the abil­ity to deliver rel­e­vant adver­tis­ing through dig­i­tal media chan­nels have changed the game. Sim­ply track­ing mar­ket­ing bud­get ROI via focus groups and aware­ness stud­ies is insuf­fi­cient for today’s CMO.  Inter­ac­tion between online and offline media is still com­plex, but it’s imper­a­tive to ana­lyze and opti­mize mul­ti­ple media in order to build effec­tive adver­tis­ing campaigns.

The Adobe Dig­i­tal Index team per­formed two types of analy­sis to under­stand 1) the con­sump­tion pat­terns of sports related con­tent across devices, and 2) how web traf­fic is impacted by tele­vi­sion adver­tis­ing around the Super Bowl.

Mobile video view­ing will dou­ble on Super Bowl Sunday

The Dig­i­tal Index team ana­lyzed 1.4 bil­lion video starts dur­ing 10 large sport­ing events in 2012 and com­pared them to typ­i­cal, non-event days.  View­ers demon­strated an increas­ing propen­sity to check sports-related videos from their mobile phones and an even larger desire to watch those videos from tablets dur­ing these spe­cial sport­ing events. These data points are com­pelling, but most strik­ing is the per­cent­age of online videos accessed by tablets and mobile phones, reach­ing 16% on a day with a major sport­ing event – a 100% increase com­pared to a typ­i­cal day in sports. View­er­ship lev­els of this mag­ni­tude are sig­nif­i­cant and demon­strate the need for media web­sites to con­tinue to invest in usabil­ity, design, and opti­miza­tion of mobile con­tent.  For adver­tis­ers, it begs the ques­tion, Should I sup­ple­ment my Super Bowl ad spend with online video to reach a more afflu­ent and tar­geted audi­ence with more mea­sur­able results?  Or, if I can’t afford America’s most expen­sive 30 sec­onds of air­time ($3.8 mil­lion in 2013), can I take advan­tage of the event in other ways online?

Dig­i­tal Index data sug­gests that mar­keters should be say­ing yes and yes. Super Bowl adver­tis­ers should con­sider the mobile video con­sump­tion trend to sup­ple­ment their tele­vi­sion expen­di­ture with incre­men­tal online video adver­tis­ing. Adver­tis­ers seek­ing more tar­geted vehi­cles or those who can­not afford the Super Bowl pre­mium can tap into this mar­ket­ing moment online and cap­i­tal­ize on the dig­i­tal channel’s great tar­get­ing, low cost per mille (or cost per impres­sion), and afflu­ent audi­ence. We know that mobile adver­tis­ing is still com­plex, but the prices remain rel­a­tively low while the audi­ence is grow­ing and is proven to spend more. U.S. adver­tis­ers spent 180 bil­lion dol­lars in 2012, but directed only 2% of that spend into mobile adver­tis­ing (Source: eMar­keter World­wide Ad Spend­ing Fore­cast, Jan­u­ary 2013).

Mobile Video Graph

Super Bowl adver­tis­ers will see a 20% increase in web traf­fic and the bump in vis­its will last about a week

Vis­its and page views to com­pa­nies that adver­tise on TV dur­ing the Super Bowl show a 20% increase in vis­its on the day of the game and main­tain higher than aver­age traf­fic for a week fol­low­ing the game.  How­ever, by the fol­low­ing week, all is for­got­ten and traf­fic returns to its nor­mal levels.

This chart shows vis­its lead­ing up to and fol­low­ing the Super Bowl in 2011 and 2012:

2011-2012 Super Bowl Graph

In 2012, more and more brands launched Super Bowl videos online before the game. The 2012 data in the graph above shows that traf­fic for adver­tis­ers peaked much ear­lier in the cycle prior to the Super Bowl. The week fol­low­ing the Super Bowl, how­ever, saw a lower lift of 12% more page views ver­sus 15% in 2011, and 12% more vis­its in 2012 ver­sus 23% in 2011. These find­ings indi­cate that the pre­views were more likely to pull traf­fic for­ward than increase the over­all impact. Clearly, opti­miz­ing the dig­i­tal returns from Super Bowl adver­tis­ing is still a work in progress.

Many adver­tis­ing con­ver­sa­tions revolve around the trade­offs between dig­i­tal and tra­di­tional adver­tis­ing when in fact, the most pow­er­ful for­mula comes from the com­bi­na­tion of them. As media com­pa­nies expand their dig­i­tal con­tent and ad inser­tion capa­bil­i­ties, espe­cially in the area of video and mobile, and as adver­tis­ers dial in the magic for­mula between online and offline media spend, it becomes increas­ingly clear that we can no longer think in terms of one ver­sus the other. The mar­riage of dig­i­tal and tra­di­tional media will become the ulti­mate solu­tion and will drive unprece­dented results.

Will Super Bowl adver­tis­ers be able to dial in the pre­views and extend the post-Super Bowl bump this year? Will they incor­po­rate online and offline cam­paigns more effec­tively and improve the effec­tive­ness of their Super Bowl ad spend? Will adver­tis­ers get their money’s worth? A lot of these ques­tions will be top­ics of dis­cus­sions after Feb­ru­ary 3rd.  In the mean­time, we’d be inter­ested in hear­ing your thoughts and predictions.