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Are Super Bowl ads worth the $5 million price tag?

Pex Team

During perhaps the most politically divisive time in the country’s recent memory, there is still one unifying force that can bring Americans together: the Super Bowl. Whether you watch it for the love of the sport, the half-time show, or just as an excuse to eat your body weight in buffalo chicken dip (no judgment), one thing that keeps everyone talking for days after the game are the commercials.

The average price of a 30-second spot during FOX’s 2017 telecast was $5 million, up nearly $200,000 from last year, setting a new record. With such high stakes, Pex started tracking many of the online ads days before the big game to tally the views and copies – all the videos that are made using any segment from the original ads. For example, some are translated into another language for audiences outside the U.S; some have been have been spliced together in ten-minute long compilation videos; several have been posted by news outlets. And finally, there are instances for every Super Bowl ad of people posting the exact same video just to bring views to to personal or fan accounts, like this T-Mobile ad.

This year, the brands who took risks by making statements saw some of the biggest results. Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” caused quite the brewhaha. The controversial commercial is now the most-viewed of this year’s Super Bowl, proving that a hotly-debated social issue like immigration can rouse audiences more than popular celebrities can. Criticisms of the ad became some of the most-viewed copies made from the commercial.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 37 million

Copies made: 385

Views from copies: 2.8 million


Audi’s “Daughter” took on the subject of the gender wage gap. While many hailed Audi for its commitment to promising equal pay for equal work, others took issue with Audi’s message, deeming it too political. In fact, what seems like a fairly obvious principle seemed to rub many the wrong way: the ad received 55,000 likes on YouTube, but 65,000 dislikes as well. One of the top-viewed copies of this video was posted with praise by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, where it drew over 700,000 views on her official profile.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 14.6 million

Copies: 130

Views from copies: 705,000


A hot-button ad from 84 Lumber was the biggest surprise of the evening. The relatively unknown brand made waves with its ad even before the day of the Super Bowl for the same reason as Budweiser’s. Over 9 million people flocked to 84 Lumber’s website Sunday night to see the whole journey, causing the site to crash. A few of the top-viewed copies made from this ad were posted by known conservative pundits, who took to YouTube to slam the ad for its perceived pro-immigration stance.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 11.7 million

Copies made: 358

Views from copies: 1.2 million


While polarizing political statements dominated the post-game conversation online, commercials featuring some of pop culture’s favorite names fared well with audiences. Justin Bieber and Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski gave us a history of dance moves in one of several T-Mobile spots.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 15.9 million

Copies made: 346

Views from copies: 2.1 million


Comedic darling Melissa McCarthy traipsed through the wilderness to save the whales, the trees, and the rhinos for Kia, while Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton and model Miranda Kerr showed off their acting chops for Buick.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 12 million

Copies made: 474

Views from copies: 2.2 million


Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 5.9 million

Copies made: 177

Views from copies: 2.5million

Snickers took a risk with its live commercials – filmed during the game – which featured Star Wars’ actor Adam Driver in an old western setting. Though Snickers took a leap with their live ad, it seems the unconventionality did not deliver as well as the other celebrity-starring ads.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 1.1 million

Copies made: 79

Views from copies: 39,000

And Aflac, taking an expensive risk with a 30-second spot, may reconsider advertising during the Super Bowl next year. Its commercial, which featured the company’s signature spokesduck, did not receive even a quarter million views.

Source views (YouTube + Facebook): 126,000

Copies: 15

Views from copies: 40,000


Some brands, according to marketing insights site DigiDay, decided to bench ad plans this year. Taco Bell, Toyota, and Frito-Lay, all companies that have advertised their products in Super Bowls past, sat out this year, likely because justifying the costs of the spot without knowing if it will increase revenue is increasingly difficult.

Adam Kleinberg, the CEO of Bay Area-based ad agency Traction, told DigiDay that nowadays, the realm of advertising is not only beholden to television, with other platforms like social media advertising becoming more and more dominant. “Everyone knows there’s value, but no one knows how to quantify it,” he said, noting that no one is really sure what return on investment means today. “There is a lot more pressure than ever before.”

The takeaway here? Buying a $5 million SuperBowl ad isn’t the right option for every company; but if you do choose to do so, calculating your ROI means knowing how far beyond a television audience your ad goes. Thankfully, with Pex, advertisers can finally see the true reach of their commercials. From gifs to direct rip-offs and everything in between, you can see exactly how many views and shares your content gleaned cross-platform. 

*All figures current as of 2/8/17.

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