The Super Bowl is a huge event, but it’s not just about the football. It is the most-watched event in America (with this year’s Super Bowl XLIX drawing the largest audience in US TV history at 114.4 million viewers), and advertisers are eager to tap into these attentive viewers.

A 30 second ad spot for this year’s Super Bowl cost $4 million. Despite the huge audience, many marketers have to ask the question: is it worth the price?


Half of the 56 ads aired during the Super Bowl this year included hashtags . And the flurry of water cooler discussions that took place around these hashtags shows that consumers are not just engaging on one screen anymore – a fact that can help advertisers track their traditional media dollars’ effectiveness.

Advertisers no longer have to wait for a report on the number of viewers their ad reached, using demographic statistics gleaned from a small sample size. Thanks to social media, advertisers can see actual interactions with their ads in real time, directly from individual consumers using their second screens.

By tapping into Twitter and other social media conversations surrounding hashtags aired alongside TV ads, advertisers can gather aggregate demographic data or drill down to the individual level. From basic demographic information like gender, location and age to in-depth psychographic traits, hashtag conversations can shed light on the overall makeup of an audience. Advertisers can also see each and every consumer interacting with their brand, identifying the influencers and the most vocal among them.

Because information pulled from hashtag discussions are real-time, advertisers get a snapshot of what their audience is like right now. They can understand, for instance, what stage of the buyer’s journey the majority of their audience is in – whether they are discussing making a purchase or comparing their product to that of their competitor’s.

Even more robust data is available to advertisers who want the fullest picture of their audience possible. By exploring not only the real-time hashtag conversations but also the past conversations of their audience, brands can identify brand affinity, preferences, and attitude changes over time. This 360 view of a consumer can be extremely helpful in assessing how effective future marketing campaigns will be, and identifying the values of a brand’s audience.

Including a hashtag doesn’t necessarily “unlock” the secret to your audience’s heart, as Nationwide’s #makesafehappen fiasco confirms. It can, however, provide real time data about your audience that can be leveraged for future campaigns – whether those will cost $4 million or $400 to run.