Most People Won’t Watch Super Bowl Ads Before the Game

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For that matter, given the increasing attention devoted to social media and second screens, there will be plenty of consumers who won’t watch pay attention to commercials airing live during the Super Bowl either.

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, companies paying $4 million apiece for 30-second commercial slots during the game seem to get as much attention as the teams playing. We in the media play along, detailing what viewers can expect to see during commercial breaks, highlighting the ads that have been “leaked” online, celebrating the “best Super Bowl ads of all time,” and generally buying into the idea that the Super Bowl isn’t merely one day or one game but an entire season—for advertising and marketing.

The impression being spread is that consumers just can’t get enough of these commercials. According to one survey cited by USA Today and others, 78% of Americans look forward to the Super Bowl mainly for the commercials, rather than the game. Granted, that survey was conducted by an ad agency. And we must consider other survey results that paint a different picture of just how ad-crazed viewers are. According to data from the National Retail Federation, which is hardly an anti-ad group, only one quarter of adults say that the commercials are the most important part of the Super Bowl.

It’s understandable that advertisers have gotten into the habit of “leaking” Super Bowl commercials online well before they’ll air live during the game. Once the costs of production and marketing are added to the price of their prime commercial slot, they’re probably spending in the neighborhood of $10 million to be a Super Bowl advertiser. These companies must do everything possible to have as many eyeballs as possible on their brands in order to get their money’s worth.

(MORE: The 19 Best Super Bowl Ads of All Time)

The vast majority of American consumers, however, refuse to buy into the advertising hype. Only 15% of U.S. adults say that they’ll watch Super Bowl ads online in advance of the game, according to a survey conducted by a consortium of ad agencies in Grand Rapids, Mich., as reported by Six in ten survey participants said they would not watch ads online ahead of time, and another 25% weren’t sure. Older consumers were more likely than younger folks to have no interest in viewing ads before the game; among those 55 and up, 12% said they planned on checking out commercials available online before Sunday.

On the one hand, this may seem surprising in light of surveys indicating that more than three-quarters of Americans are fascinated primarily with the game’s commercials, rather than the game itself. On the other, it may seem strange that any significant portion of consumers would proactively seek out commercials to watch, even if they are supposedly the “best” commercials going and are likely to hot topics around the office water cooler.

After all, one of the main reasons for the soaring popularity of DVRs and on-demand video programming is that they allow viewers to avoid commercials. In the Motorola Mobility Media Engagement Barometer released last year, 68% of consumers around the world and 74% of Americans said that they record programs so that they can “skip advertisements on commercial channels.”

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When so many of us take steps to avoid commercials that we’d otherwise be forced to watch, it makes sense that relatively few go out of their way to watch extra commercials just for the sake of watching commercials.