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Mar 07, 2022

How Will Brands Know if their Super Bowl Ads Worked?

Seraj Bharwani


By Seraj Bharwani, CSO, AcuityAds

This post originally appeared on AdWeek February 11, 2022.


Success of a Super Bowl ad goes beyond star studded casts of NFL celebrities, rappers, and comedians. You’ll notice that big players such as Lays, Cheetos, and Doritos have already released teaser ads, taking advantage of the opportunity to capture early attention and stay top of mind throughout the game day festivities. For frequently purchased CPG brands in snacks and beverages with mass appeal and national distribution, the case for investing in Super Bowl ads appears to be a no brainer. However, even these marketers are increasingly requested to produce elaborate ROI analyses beyond counting how many cases of beer or snacks are sold relative to prior years. This is partially the result of an ever-escalating price tag of $6 million for a 30-second exposure during the game. Add the costs of creative and teaser production, celebrity endorsements, and paid promotions, and you’re looking at a sizeable commitment, which will be scrutinized in search of ROI validation post-game.


Making the case for any industry

Circle How will you know

The case for in-game ads in automotive, financial services and travel categories is not obvious. Products in these categories aren’t purchased frequently and require extended consumer consideration before purchase. Hardly 5% of the target audience is in-market to buy a vehicle, a vacation package, a financial product, or similar big-ticket item. These marketers must find a way to evaluate broad reach in terms of ROI for purchases that might happen weeks or months post an in-game ad exposure.


Similar challenges apply to DTC (digitally native) brand marketers hooked on sales transparency through lower-funnel investments. Numerous early DTC success stories were built on performance advertising targeting in-market buyers with measurable impact on short-term sales. With greater crowding and saturation of the lower funnel search and social channels, DTC brands are progressively open to exploring investments in upstream, awareness channels. Here again the task of quantifying the ROI impact of reaching out-of-market buyers will be more complex.


Regardless of what you are selling, you can tap into multiple tracking and measurement approaches to obtain early insights into whether your Super Bowl marketing and advertising investments will deliver a reasonable ROI.


Top three tactics for measuring your impact

1. Track user-initiated behaviours

If your Super Bowl media is salient and resonates, viewers might search for your brand and seek out related content on your social and captive brand channels. Your initial goal should be to determine if viewers paid attention to your Super Bowl teasers, ads and related content. Track and analyze excess share of user-initiated behaviors like branded (i.e., organic) search and branded video viewership at the aggregate level.


Similarly share of user-initiated behaviors to watch and/or interact with Super Bowl video ads and teasers (on brand channels) has proven to be an early indicator of brand advertising’s impact on sales and market share. Publicly accessible video viewership data on YouTube has served as a good proxy across many vertical categories and can be aggregated and analyzed daily without major costs to advertisers.


Share of branded search and brand-produced video content are both leading indicators of market share growth by about 3 to 12 months depending on the category.


2. Capture in-media shopping volume

Circle How will you know 2Now your Digital and CTV/OTT media can be shoppable with ads leading users either directly to your retail partners or to your own eCommerce site with media-embedded QR codes. Every media touchpoint can be shoppable with instantaneous availability through millions of branded storefronts pre & post-game.


This is your opportunity to get a real-time read on visits to retailer eCommerce sites and in-cart purchases long before retail data is available through syndicated research outlets. This is especially critical to learn which products/SKUs are fast movers to help you optimize merchandizing and the supply chain for a better ROI.


3. Verify for incrementality

Incremental visits to your eCommerce destination is an important metric to verify if broad reach, awareness advertising is working for your brand. For visitors who are in-market, you should see an uptick in short-term sales. For those who are not in-market to buy, they are potentially window-shopping which offers an ideal opportunity for you to capture user consent for future communications. At the very minimum, your early indicator in this case would be the growth in the size of your prospect pool with consent for potential future sales enhancing your ROI.


What else is out there?

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Detailed analysis and modeling are always an option if you have the resources and time to employ media-mix modeling (MMM) using econometrics with historical data or randomized control testing (RCT) with designed experiments to establish incremental contribution of Super Bowl advertising relative to concurrently active media. There are enough fans of each with conviction for accuracy of either method. These approaches, however, come with inherent limitations in terms of the scale and volume of historical data required for analysis and level of precision achievable and usually involve months of analysis to obtain a directional assessment of ROI.


Marketers commit to Super Bowl advertising for different reasons and not just for the immediate ROI. And there are dozens of ways to develop, activate and enhance the effectiveness of such event-themed investments through in-game placements, teasers, endorsements, in-store/eCommerce promotions and the like. Advertisers eager to learn if advertising around mega events generates sales commensurate with investments can now capitalize on early indicators for a quick read on ROI.

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