Super Bowl advertisers drive people to Web. Will the Web win?

This Sunday, an estimated 100 million viewers will tune into Super Bowl XLV. Some, to watch the highly-anticipated match between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. For others, the real draw will be the ads.

The going price for a 30-second spot during the game ranges between $2.5 million and $2.8 million. An extravagant expense for a mere half-minute of visibility, according to some. But this year, advertisers will be doing more to extend the value of this spend and retain their audience's attention for long after their 30 seconds are over.

More than ever before, advertisers are incorporating online and social media components to their on-air spots. For example, Audi will display its Twitter hashtag during its commercial to encourage online discussion and keep its ad alive. Other advertisers, such as BMW, BudLight and Mercedes Benz, will promote links to their Facebook pages in order to prolong engagement with viewers.

If the E-Trade Babies are any indication, the ROI for social media use in advertising is huge. In the week since the newest E-Trade Baby video went live, it has been viewed nearly 1.3 million times.

Even more impressive, Volkswagen's Super Bowl commercial, "The Force," which was posted to YouTube a mere two days ago, has been viewed 5.1 million times.

The big question is whether viewers will tear their eyes away from the action to check out these pages. A recent survey by Lightspeed Research indicates that nearly two-thirds of Super Bowl viewers between the ages of 18 to 34 plan to use a smartphone during the game. Eighteen percent of those will be viewing Super Bowl ads. Another 18 percent will be visiting advertiser websites. And 32 percent will be posting comments about the game on a social network.

With so much Web activity expected during the game , we'll be keeping an eye on the performance of the homepages and, in some cases, the microsites of this year's advertisers.

With the high cost of these ads, the last thing these companies need to do is jeopardize their ROI. Which is exactly what will happen if their sites slow down or time out.

We'll also monitor the performance of the social networks to see if the increased buzz that is anticipated will have an effect on the responsiveness or availability of these sites.

Enjoy the game (and ads!), and check back with us on Monday to see which advertisers scored big (or fumbled) their online performance.


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