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TiVo finds Super Bowl advertisers score with online previews

February 04, 2013|By Jon Healey
  • A screen shot from Taco Bell's 2013 Super Bowl commercial, which TiVo declared the most engaging of the telecast -- even though thousands of people had already seen it online.
A screen shot from Taco Bell's 2013 Super Bowl commercial, which TiVo… ( and Taco Bell )

The folks at TiVo released their annual Super Bowl commercial viewership analysis Monday, declaring that Taco Bell's ad about raucous seniors (pictured above) was the "most engaging" one in the telecast. That's not to say it was the "best" or "most effective"; it's just an indication of how well it appeared to hold viewers' attention. (More on TiVo's methodology in a second.)

I've appended TiVo's top 10 list below, which includes links to all of the spots. The most interesting thing was that nine of them had been aired online before they were broadcast. In fact, numerous advertisers were promoting the early availability of their commercials on the Web, and a number of media outlets ran stories in the days leading up to the game featuring some of the more outrageous ones -- including Taco Bell's, which the company published on YouTube a week in advance.

TiVo executive Tara Maitra said there's a trend toward commercials being previewed before the game, as well as advertisers enlisting the public to help create and pick the commercials they air. “This shift reduces the element of surprise in making a commercial successful," Maitra said.

Well, yes it does. But good commercials, like all good videos, stand up to repeated viewing, and advertisers increasingly recognize that they need to go wherever the audience is, rather than hoping the audience will come to them. That's an idea that TV networks and studios have gone back and forth on; some, like Time Warner's HBO, treat the Internet like a threat to their existing pay-TV revenue, while others see it as a source of extra viewers and revenue.

Interestingly, TiVo's list didn't include either of the elegiac spots by Chrysler that paid tribute to veterans and farmers (the latter featuring some breathtaking photography). Instead, the top-ranked ads all brought the funny, typically with a dollop or two of outrageous visuals and, often, at least a whiff of sex. Here's the list:

1.  Taco Bell “Viva Young”

2.  Doritos “Goat For Sale”

3.  Hyundai Santa Fe “Pick Your Team”

4.  Doritos “Fashionista Daddy”

5. “Perfect Date”

6.  M&Ms “Anything for Love”

7.  Sketchers “Man Vs. Cheetah”

8.  Pepsi Next “Pepsi Next Drink it to Believe It”

9.  Audi “Prom”

10.  Volkswagen “Get In. Get Happy”

TiVo bases its analysis on data collected anonymously from 30,000 TiVo users across the country. It measures viewer engagement by looking at the portions of a broadcast that are viewed at normal speed versus the ones that are fast-forwarded through. "The most engaging ads are determined by looking for spots with the biggest bump in viewership relative to the surrounding 15 minutes of programming, offering a true reflection of change in viewership," the company said its announcement. In other words, an ad is considered more engaging if it prompts viewers to stop fast-forwarding and actually, you know, watch.

One final, unrelated note. I'm showing my age here, but the Super Bowl broadcast Sunday struck me as inappropriately adult more often than it usually does. You might argue that anything-for-an-eyeball advertisers such as pushed the edge of the broadcast-TV envelope years ago, and that Beyoncé's halftime show was considerably more discreet than Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction in 2004. And you would be right. It wasn't necessarily how far the visuals went on Sunday, it was how persistently advertisers drifted into how-do-I-explain-this-to-my-younger-children territory.

Am I wrong about that?

In case you managed somehow to miss it, here's the Taco Bell ad:


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Follow Jon Healey on Twitter @jcahealey

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