Nearly 112 million viewers tuned into the Super Bowl on February 17, making it the third-most watched TV broadcast in U.S. history. Brands were also paying attention: eager to reach the enormous audience, advertisers paid as much as $5 million for the game’s 30-second ad spots. But that huge cost – an increase of 11% over last year – may no longer be worth it.

Looking at the social interactions resulting from each ad spot, L2’s Super Bowl-focused Insight Report finds that some brands paid astronomical sums for a tiny amount of attention. For example, Advil paid $114 for each view of its “Distant Memory” Super Bowl spot. More successful were efforts by Heinz Ketchup, Persil ProClean, Hyundai, and Pokémon, which all paid less than a dollar per view.

Social lift generated during game time

Brands whose ads aired after halftime also saw an unfortunate return on investment. TV ads during the first half of the game generated 189% more social interactions than those after the break, according to the L2 study.

Relative cost of social interactions

With almost one in four viewers watching for the ads, brands are focusing on the right content area, but TV may be the wrong platform. Innovative advertisers are shifting to more affordable platforms like Snapchat, which offer the same publicity boost without the astronomical price tag. For example, GrubHub sent out snaps containing food facts relevant to the Super Bowl, and Gatorade created a Snapchat lens animating the Super Bowl tradition of pouring the beverage on the victor. The weeklong campaign cost $350 thousand per day – half the price of a Super Bowl ad.


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