What the World Cup and Black Friday Say About the Future of Ads
by Stephen Graveman
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Advertising’s big night generates a collective “meh” from viewers
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When it comes to advertising, traditionally it never got bigger than “The Big Game.” Aired in over 130 countries and across 30 different languages, the game is known globally as a night of football championships, half-time concerts, and iconic advertisements. It’s the ultimate entertainment event, and brands spend all year carefully planning and creating expensive, elaborate ads in an increasing arms race to stand out and entertain.
But what was once an easy completion for advertisers has grown increasingly complicated in the last few years. With linear TV viewership continuing to drop, fewer viewers are seeing the ads that cost brands upwards of $13 million to air for thirty-second slots. And if the ads are seen, feedback on social media is often critical or worse, completely ambivalent.
Much like what MNTN did to find the secret to the perfect ad, Influential—an AI-powered social data platform that partners with IBM’s Watson—recently ran an analysis of online conversations for the last five championship games. What it discovered is raising more than a few eyebrows in the advertising world.
After scouring countless conversations online for the last five years, Influential came to a bleak conclusion: the overall sentiment for the ads is dropping. Positive reactions for The Big Game ads have fallen from 28% in 2017 to just 15% in 2021. Meanwhile, negative comments rose from 16% to 34% in the same time span. Worst of all, conversations about commercials in general have dropped to 10% in 2021. In other words, today’s audiences are less enthusiastic than ever for advertising’s big day. Even worse—the majority just don’t care anymore. In 2020, over 62% of the conversations online were apathetic—last year that number was 51%.
Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, explained the findings to Adweek, “With second screen watching at an all-time high, the behaviors of the once largely linear Super Bowl audience are evolving. In 2021, there was an all-time low in conversation volume and sentiment for Super Bowl commercials. This is indicative of the new ways to engage with the game on social platforms, short-form video, and even live-streaming.”
Not only are viewership and sentiment declining, but big brands are lapping up most—if not all— of the ad inventory and dominating what little social conversation still exists. Between 2017 and 2021, the top brands mentioned on Twitter are the typical heavyweights for the Big Game: Budweiser, Pepsi, Google, and even the NFL itself. Despite the big names and elaborate, expensive ads, even these advertising mainstays had a hard time generating goodwill. Once again, the same negative or apathetic emotions were the dominant emotion.
Like Influential, Hootsuite ran its own analysis of brand mentions during the Big Game for the last five years. Hootsuite social engagement specialist Trish Riswick gave Adweek some guidance for how marketers can fare better with their ads. Tips included using humor and that a celebrity’s face does not mean an ad will always be successful (something we learned ourselves last year). Influential’s Detert had even stronger advice for brands looking to find new ways to spend their Super Bowl budgets: “Branded content integrations with creators and communities are becoming more effective.”
So what’s a brand to do? While tentpole events like this weekend’s game will continue to be a big advertising moment for the foreseeable future (the sheer number of eyes watching alone makes it worthwhile for many brands), the great viewer tune-out comes down to two factors: ad relevance and expectations. Today’s viewers expect more from their advertisements, and the wide net that the Big Game casts means fewer ads that are specific to each viewer’s tastes. In a recent Sharethrough survey, 71% of respondents said they would pay more attention to ads if they felt it applied to their interests—and that’s why creative marketers are moving their budgets to Connected TV advertising.
For a fraction of the cost of a 30-second spot in the Big Game, advertisers can use CTV advertising’s robust targeting methods to directly serve ads that matter to the audience that matters—when they’re watching, where they’re watching, and when they’re most receptive. The result is the same audience watching your ad with their mobile device in hand, ready to engage with your brand—but the ads are relevant to their specific tastes, you’re not wasting precious ad dollars advertising to someone uninterested, and there’s less competition for attention.
This is just scratching the surface of how CTV ads can deliver more for less than big tentpole events. Premium Connected TV ad platforms like Performance TV can take it a step further, with the ability to A/B test and leverage performance data to see what’s working, what’s not, and optimize your creative on the fly—something that just isn’t possible on linear television.
To learn more specific examples of how brands are cutting the cord alongside their consumers, visit our pre-recorded webinar, Keep the Super, Lose the Bowl: How to Quickly Build High-Impact TV and Video Creative.