It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s truly the Super Bowl!

Rentrak has been effectively tracking the Super Bowl for a number of years from millions of TVs projected to the U.S. population and it is interesting to see that the game is still so dynamic.

First off, spending has continued to rise over the past four years and will continue to this year. The chart below (with data from Kantar Media: www.kantarmedia.us) shows that the 2014 game produced more 14 percent more ad dollars than the previous year. Why was this so?

What drove the increase in total ad revenue for the 2014 game was the number of ad units sold as shown in the next chart. Even though the 2014 game with the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was a blowout (43-8), and shorter in time (due to the fact that the 2013 Baltimore Ravens versus San Francisco 49ers had a 20-minute blackout the previous year), the network was able to sell 8 percent more paid ad time in 2014. The increase in the number of ads allowed the high growth in total ad revenue.

Percent Change Year over Year Super Bowl Ad Minutes

Of course, the real value to advertisers is the number (and quality) of eyeballs delivered by the Super Bowl. The overall audience is determined in part by the quality of the game, which was pretty good from 2011 through 2013. In 2011, the New Orleans Saints were in the championship for the first time. There was a lot of “heart” for them in the country after Hurricane Katrina. The game featured a Saints comeback as they pulled away in the last two minutes against Peyton Manning’s Colts. In 2012, there was the bitter rivalry and Super Bowl rematch between the Giants and Patriots, with a last-second New England “Hail Mary” pass falling incomplete. In 2013, the bi-coastal game of Baltimore versus San Francisco drew in more viewers with the help of an unforeseen “blackout” and eventual 49er comeback that fell short in the final minute. However, in 2014, the Super Bowl featured two Western teams with Seattle and Denver, as well as a 43-8 blowout that just wasn’t too compelling.

Rentrak Super Bowl HH Ratings

One thing all these games have in common is their power to deliver engaged audiences as indicated in the next chart. Rentrak has included commercial ratings since 2012 in our national TV service. When one looks at the commercial rating compared to the game’s rating, they are virtually the same. People like Super Bowl ads. They stay tuned in at a very high rate. In addition, people stay tuned to the game. Rentrak has a patent on a “Stickiness Index,” a measurement of program engagement that looks at how long people watch a program compared to other shows. The Super Bowl is about three times more likely to hold its audience. This is important because independent research has shown that the more of a program people watch, the more powerful the advertising’s impact is. Staying with a game means you are engaged with it and with the commercials. That is good for advertisers. 

Super Bowl 2011-2014

The 2014 game, even with the lack of excitement, still held both the commercial and the program audience throughout, as seen in the next chart. In fact, the rating delivery of a Super Bowl ad is directly tied to where it is in the game, not to audiences switching away when the ads are playing. As the game built in the first quarter, commercials were lower than the program average, but the game itself didn’t reach its peak. Once the peak was reached at about 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, ads from then on delivered higher ratings because of the overall audience level. At the very end of the game, there was a decline in overall audience, not just the commercial audience. 

Okay, I could prattle on about social media and the Super Bowl, and the attractive Advanced Demographics of the Super Bowl, but I can save that for another time. The evidence is clear, advertisers value the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl delivers value. Rentrak will provide a snapshot view of ad levels the day after this year’s Feb. 1 game.

By the way, I think this was a pretty good overview for a guy whose decisions in last year’s football championship pool were based on the style of each team’s uniform.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.

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The Upfront Season, Exact Commercial Ratings and the Power of Position

As the networks, advertisers and agencies start the annual waltz of the wallet known as the upfront, I thought it would make sense to take a look at some of the value that is delivered.

It is not a surprise that where an ad is placed has a large impact on how many people see it. As an example, I looked at 1,588 major quick service restaurant 30-second units, which ran from December 31, 2012 through February 24, 2013. The chart below shows the index of the Exact Commercial RatingTM to the telecast rating for the restaurant’s spots. (The index is the exact second rating for the ad divided by the telecast rating.) The live indices are the teal columns; the indices for the 3-day DVR audience are shown in orange.

ECR Index

So, while 93 percent of the live telecast audience on average watched the ad when it was the last ad prior to a program promotion, only 62.2 percent of the 3-day DVR audience did. In contrast, when the ad was the first paid ad after a program promotion, it actually did slightly better than the telecast average, but with the DVR, only 87.9 percent of those viewers saw the ad. Where an ad is positioned in a pod has an impact.

61 percent of the quick service restaurant’s ads ran in the middle of pods, which can be seen in the pie chart below. They did do well with the first position with 24 percent of ads, versus 15 percent, being in a last position.

Distribution of QSR Ad Copy by Position in Pod

There was also a difference by network. The table below shows the range of the average 3-day DVR ad index to telecast across the 40 networks, which the restaurant used. The index ranged from an 85 to 53.5. Networks were not identified since many factors could have impacted the scores, including daypart mix, position mix, average rating, genre, etc.

Range of Network 3 Day Ad Indices

In fact, I made several attempts to build sophisticated models to predict what the 3-Day DVR Index would be by including network, daypart, program rating, pod position, and percent of the program that was live. I failed.

Then I tried something simpler. I said to myself, what if each network had the same distribution of ads by pod position as the average network did? In short, if you truly created the same rotation across networks, what would happen to the indices? Now, I could only do this with the networks that had ads placed in each position, which cut the list down from 40 to 13 networks. The chart below shows the networks in teal with what their original average was across all ad positions; the orange line shows what happens when I weight averaged the results to reflect the distribution of units across all networks. With only one exception, all the network scores went up.

Range of 3 Day DVR Ad Index for Networks with QSR Ads in Each Pod Position

So, in other words, if you create a buy where the ads across networks are distributed in the same manner, the holding power of your ads won’t differ as much. A “fair” rotation works. But, paradoxically, an “ unfair” buy can work as well. If an advertiser decides to push for those first positions, more people will see their ads. And that push for first becomes an interesting item to negotiate. And only Rentrak, with its second-by-second Exact Commercial RatingsTM, can provide the granularity and stability to make that type of buy.

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In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.