Facebook, Apple, GEICO Lead Audience, Attention, Actions in NFL Playoffs

Even before the Super Bowl starts, the National Football League playoffs draw huge audience numbers. From the early January wildcard games through this past weekend’s conference championships, advertisers already started rolling out major campaigns to capture as many of those eyeballs as possible.

Over the past three weekends, NFL playoff game ads have generated nearly 18 billion total impressions, and spots have received an average view rate (AVR*) of 86.95 percent, according to data from iSpot.tv which measures attention for TV ads in real time.

*(Average view rate is the percentage of an ad that is, on average, watched across all airings of that ad.)

Related: SMI: TV Ad Spending Rose 5.5% in December

Southwest Owns Playoffs Airwaves
The most-viewed ad, by far, has been Southwest Airlines’ “I Am Fenwick,” with 381,322,301 impressions, though the AVR on the spot sits at just 84.41 percent. While other spots have failed to generate the same staggering impression numbers Southwest has, plenty have managed to achieve a better AVR with less exposure.

Related: Super Bowl Ratings Are ‘Bulletproof,’ Says Fox’s Shanks

Facebook Nails Engagement, Apple Owns Actions
The two Facebook Live ads -- “Dance Moves” and “Waterfall” -- each had a 100 percent AVR, earning over 6 million impressions. Fidelity, U.S. Bank, Mercedes-Benz and Google Phones were on a short list of advertisers with an AVR of 99 percent or higher during the NFL Playoffs as well.

However, the online conversation has been guided by another ad right around the 99 percent AVR mark. Apple’s iPhone “Stroll” spot came in with 98.92 percent on six airings, for a grand total of 113,486,546 views. But “Stroll” is also controlling 21.46 percent of the online activity around playoff ads -- five times that of the nearest competitor. The visually arresting ad, starring Lil Buck and set to the tune of Marian HIll’s “Down,” scores at getting digital responses while pushing Apple AirPods.

Related: Kantar: Super Bowl Ad Revenue Hit $370M in 2016

Playoffs Dominated By Usual Suspects
Overall spend during the playoffs -- totaling an estimated $797 million so far, according to iSpot.tv -- has been largely controlled by auto makers. Ford, Chevrolet, Honda and Hyundai are all among the top 20 estimated spenders, and the industry as a whole has spent about $148 million on TV ads through three playoff rounds.

The top overall brands in terms of estimated playoff spend include Verizon, Apple iPhone, Ford, Chevy and McDonald’s. Verizon, an official sponsor of the NFL, garnered over 213 million impressions with its “Football/Life Balance” spot, though it only received an AVR of 60.87 percent. Chevy’s top-10 ad (in terms of impressions), “Four Years in a Row,” received nearly 204 million impressions with an 87.52 percent AVR.

Along with Southwest and Verizon, some of the other top spots for the playoffs have (unsurprisingly) come from big-spending brands. Subway’s “Now Just Six Dollars” ad had nearly 250 million impressions, and Nationwide’s “Songs for All Your Sides” managed 228 million. Taco Bell’s “Order Envy” also made the top-five, with just under 221 million impressions.

It stands to reason that we’ll see a lot of these ads and brand names during the Super Bowl in February, as the playoffs create a preview for what’s to come from advertisers.

John Cassillo is an analyst and contributor with TV[R]EV.