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Monday February 4, 2008 7:25 pm

TiVo Literally Counts Top Ten Super Bowl Spots

While there are plenty of top ten lists on the Net reporting the popularity of Super Bowl commercials, TiVo has an actual way of gauging which of the exact spots are literally watched the most by viewers. We chatted with Todd Juenger, Vice President of Audience Research and Measurement, who gave us his top 10 list in terms of the most viewed during the event. That list and our interview with Todd, including all you ever wanted to know about TiVo accumulating data and what it means, after the jump.


Todd JuengerThe top ten rated commercials:

1. E-Trade: “Baby” (spitting up)
2. Pepsi Co: “Justin Timberlake”
3. Doritos: “Mouse Trap” (user-generated)
4. Coca-Cola: “James Carville and Bill Frist”
5. Ice Breakers: “Carmen Electra”
6. Bridgestone: “Headlights”
7. Bud Light: “Cavemen”
8. Vitamin Water: “Horse Race”
9. Cars.com Plan B: “Witch Doctor”
10. Life Water: “Thriller”

Tell us how this works.

There are about 4.1 million TiVo subscribers out there today and under our very strict privacy policy we are able to anonymously and aggregately collect a sample of data from them on what they are watching or not watching every night. It allows us to look at a very detailed levels, second by second, what they are watching or fast forwarding through. In conjunction with that, one thing that we like to do every year is, using that detailed, passively observed information, and see which commercials people watch the most (during the Super Bowl.) This is our sixth year. We have found that some of the commercials every year, including this year, believe it or not, get a higher rating than the game itself.

It’s like the antithesis of what most people think of TiVo, that people use it to record their shows and fast-forward through the commercials, but during this unique event it’s the opposite. People use their TiVos to actually watch more commercials than the game itself.

That’s odd.

What happens is that people watch all of the game from beginning to end, and the commercials that capture people’s attention get rewound and played multiple times. That adds up into a higher level cumulatively than the game itself. There is some rewinding for replays, but since the networks do so many replays of their own, it works out that while the game is usually viewed once, the commercials are viewed a number of times.

There are all sorts of surveys and polls out there which are based on popularity contests. The distinction for our list is that we don’t ask anybody anything. It is a calculation of which commercials were actually watched by 10,000 people. Our list shows the top 10.

We were surprised by the list because some of them really sucked.

(laughs) One man’s piece of art is another man’s piece of garbage, I guess. A couple on here really surprised me too because I didn’t like them. Others I liked aren’t on here. I thought the E-Trade spot really hit the mark and I am not surprised to see the Doritos and Pepsi ads where they are. It fun to compare and contrast our list with the others like USA Today and AOL.
Doesn’t Nielsen do this?

No, they aren’t equipped because in order to do this you need to go on a second to second basis. Nielsen can only go down to a minute.

You said that when you collect the data its anonymous, but the users know that you are doing it, correct?

It’s part of our privacy policy that we take extremely serious. When they become subscribers they agree to the policy (online at TiVo) that says we can collect viewing data and only shared on an aggregate basis, one big number. It’s almost technically impossible to track the viewership back to anybody. We don’t collect where it came from. Also per our privacy policy, if it scares you or you aren’t comfortable with that, you can opt out of it. That’s fine. We are still happy to have you as a subscriber. Some people are the opposite and want others to know what they are watching so they have a voice in what shows get cancelled or not. About 90% participate.

Do you have specific numbers of viewings per spot?

Ultimately, the way we measure that is by adding up the total number of viewing seconds. It is not the total or average number of rewinds. We don’t do anything in the line of indexing, that’s a little too much in the needs of industry specifics. We just receive the ordinal ranking.

We noticed Justin Timberlake and Carmen Electra are in a couple and assume that they were popular because the people in them are.

I agree with you. I have watched these for a few years now and it is no earth-shattering insight that in order to stand out in a Superbowl commercial you either need to be perceived as really funny or you need to have a celebrity, or both. I was not surprised that the Justin Timberlake one was up there because he is clearly one of the highest profiles out there and he has his fan base. Then there is a part of the population that probably really got a kick out of seeing him dragged across the street and beaten up (laughs.)

I was surprised to see the Coke ad with James Carvell and Bill Frist up there, but maybe with the elections going on that made it particularly timely. Carmen Electra and the “Thriller” ad appeals to the glamorous female thing, but you don’t see the Victoria’s Secret ad on there. I am proud of my fellow males because goDaddy.com has never made the top ten list.
Shouldn’t there be some censorship when a spot gets that close to the line of sexism like on goDaddy or racism, as in the case of Salesgenie?

As I understood it, this year Fox declined the ad that goDaddy wanted to run so they made an ad that said we can’t run it on TV because it is too much, so go to our Website. Busch is a perennial heavyweight in the Superbowl. There were three ads last year in our top ten list and one that was #7, so they had a decline. I think it’s interesting to note that we lost 2 beer ads and gained 2 water ads.
Maybe that was because of the women watching.

One of the fastest growing segment of beverages are these enhanced waters and all the soft drink companies now are putting them out, so it is really no big surprise. It’s like a commentary on society that water is replacing beer.

And we pay for it. Go figure.

While we are looking at the oddities here, The Doritos ad with the mousetrap was user-generated. It was submitted by a contest entrant. Last year Frito-Lay ran the same kind of concept and both of them were in our top 10.

I know there is a writers strike going on but we don’t think many of the spots were as creative this year.

I agree with you and another thing I think was that the average quality was down. I think there were some shining stars and also some dogs. It also seemed more cluttered. In the first quarter there were no stoppages and when they finally started the commercials they came…

...Every two seconds.
Yeah, they just didn’t stop.
There wasn’t as much CGI this year, like they didn’t want to spend the bucks. Having giant balloons just isn’t the same.

There wasn’t as much of it this year, but I’m not sure the motivation was because they didn’t want to spend the money. When you are spending 2.7 million dollars for 30 seconds of time, usually cost isn’t necessarily the first thing that enters your mind. Maybe it’s more to do with the effectiveness of those ads. There were some effects though, like Shaquille O’Neal and the Horse Race, but a couple of years ago there were more of them, so I guess we really didn’t see any of those this year. Maybe that one made the list because people rewound to see just what the heck it was that just went by.

And a sports fan is a sports fan. That and Doritos and beer makes it.
Of the ten ads on our list, 5 are for beverages, so I guess people are thirsty during football games. One of them is for munchies, Doritos. So that’s 6 out of the ten. There were a lot of car commercials and movie trailers, which happens every year. They didn’t make the list. But in regular viewing, trailers are often one of the most watched ads among TiVo viewers.

Thanks for the chat, Todd. Keep in touch.

Thank you.

Frankly, we were disappointed in this year’s Super Bowl ads and could count on one hand the commercials that impressed us. If you don’t TiVo and missed any of them, check out MySpace.

Read More | TiVo

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