No small potatoes: Pluto TV debuts first Super Bowl ad

Couch potatoes living a lean-back TV life might have been part of the marketing message, but Pluto TV didn’t sit out Sunday’s big game, as the free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service owned by Paramount Global debuted its first Super Bowl ad during in the second half of the NFL championship that saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat out the San Francisco 49ers.

Pluto TV, which competes against the likes of the Roku Channel, Fox’s Tubi and Xumo, among others, might not be the most heavily marketed streaming service, but the FAST aimed to get its name and message in front of viewers on Sunday. The Paramount-owned FAST had three total airings during the Super Bowl including two that aired on CBS (a 45-second spot and a 15-second spot that both aired in the second half), and one 60-second commercial that aired on Nick. All were versions of the Pluto TV “Couch Potato Farms’ spot, which features an imagined setting of Pluto TV country, “a place where the best couch potatoes are raised on the finest content from Pluto.”

Pluto TV couch potato row Super Bowl ad 2024
Still from Pluto TV's Couch Potato Farm ad  (Pluto TV)

Directed by Stacy Wall of Imperial Woodpecker Productions and based on creative concept by LA-based agency HAYMAKER, the commercial featured a farm with rows of people dressed and “growing” as “couch potatoes,” leaning back watching TV in a field with rows meant to represent different genres featured on the ad-supported streaming service, across thrillers, dramas, reality, comedies and others. Popular IP was also featured such as “The Walking Dead,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Yellowstone” and “SpongeBob Square Pants,” among others.

Part of the messaging is meant to convey Pluto TV’s broad and abundant content offerings and easy, comfort-style lean-back TV viewing experience.

Pluto gets its share of promo time

Pluto is owned by parent Paramount Global – also owner of CBS, which broadcast Super Bowl LVIII and leveraged the valuable airtime to promote its own content and properties, including Pluto TV.

In that sense, Pluto’s ads aren’t exactly comparable to say Super Bowl ad spending from other non-Paramount-owned brands and advertisers, as Paramount used ad time to run commercials that count as promotions for its own brands.

Valerie Kaplan, Pluto TV’s Global SVP and head of Consumer Marketing, told StreamTV Insider that parent Paramount “took the opportunity to use this year’s Super Bowl stage to showcase the wide breadth and depth of brands, platforms and content that make up our ecosystem.”

And Pluto looked to capitalize on the TV time.

“For Pluto TV, this was the ultimate opportunity to evangelize our offering to even greater masses, via an attentive audience, showcasing our new brand look and feel and highlight how Pluto is free and easy, the way TV should be – done in a humorous, yet heartfelt brand voice” Kaplan continued.

According to ad and audience measurement firm iSpot, Pluto TV benefited from Paramount’s promotional push and the extra reach brought by the Super Bowl. The firm shared data showing that Paramount had 9.5 minutes of promo time in the CBS telecast, of which the Couch Potato spot received a full minute (across its 45- and 15-second spots on the CBS airing).

The use of promo time during the big game is notable as, according to iSpot, more broadly, Pluto TV doesn’t typically receive a lot of promotional support on linear and video on-demand platforms compared to other streaming services. For example, for 10 services tracked from January 1 through February 12, iSpot data shows Pluto TV had just 75 ad airings (compared to next-lowest Fox Nation with 1,681 and leaders Paramount+ and Max with 19,777 and 18,659 ad airings, respectively).

However, the Super Bowl delivered on reach. “Pluto has far fewer airings and air time, but because of SBLVII has 7th most reach of any service,” iSpot told StreamTV Insider.

Pluto’s Kaplan told STV that the spot, which aired nationally on CBS and Paramount+, will continue to run for the next two months as part of a 360-degree marketing campaign.  She also noted there are a variety of creative versions of the ad that vary in length and feature different couch potato vignettes to highlight the various content available on Pluto and array of entertainment fans it serves.

Grabbing reach in a good year for the Super Bowl

In addition to getting a promo boost from Paramount’s Super Bowl airtime, it was likely a particularly good year for Pluto TV to get in on the big game’s advertising action as data from Samba TV found this year’s matchup (which also had the added bonus of Taylor Swift’s presence) garnered the highest Super Bowl viewership seen in the past six years.

Samba reported that 39 million U.S. households tuned in for the game, reflecting a 6% increase from the 2023 Super Bowl. Also showing a boost, preliminary audience measurement estimates from iSpot that tabulated the simulcast of Super Bowl LVIII on CBS, Univision, Nickelodeon and streaming on Paramount+, said the game drew an average second TV audience of approximately 126.63 million viewers, representing a 10.9% year over year increase. Per iSpot, the average second-by-second household Super Bowl audience on linear and streaming across CBS, Univision, Nickelodeon and Paramount was 50.5 million. Most of the viewership happened on CBS which garnered a 121.9 million average second audience, inclusive of out-of-home viewing (such as bars and restaurants) and streaming.

Streaming also accounted for a greater share of viewing this year, where data from TVision found 34% of households streamed the game, compared to 28% in 2023.

Pluto TV’s Super Bowl ad garnered the FAST service both reach and attention.

Samba TV data shared with StreamTV Insider found that across its two Couch Potato Farm ads that ran during the game, Pluto TV reached 30.3 million U.S. households, making it the 11th highest-reaching brand of the game (Poppi was the most-watched Super Bowl ad that aired nationally, reaching 29.1 million households, followed by the first Verizon ad and Snapchat’s ad, according to Samba).  Individually, Pluto’s first 45-second Super Bowl spot was higher reaching than its second 15-second spot, reaching 28.8 million households and 28.4 million households, respectively, per Samba TV.

In total, iSpot said on CBS the Super Bowl featured 81 spots from 65 advertisers, up from 59 spots and 51 advertisers in 2023.

Couch potatoes garner attention and likability

The Pluto TV Couch Potato Farms ad also captured viewer interest and scored above average for likability.

The ad did well on TVision’s Attention Index, which measures if viewers paid attention to an ad when they were in the room. The Pluto spot scored 123.2 on the TVision Attention Index. For context, the average attention score for all linear TV is 100 and the top Super Bowl ad for attention on TVision’s index – T-Mobile’s “That T-Mobile Home Internet Feeling” -  scored a 126.8.

And according to iSpot’s creative assessment insights, the 45s Couch Potato spot had a likeability score of 712 (11% above the norm), though the shorter 15s spot fared worse, scoring 562, which is 12% below the norm. The top emotions it evoked were “curiosity” followed by “funny.’  And while some people might’ve previously questioned what or who Pluto TV is, the spot scored well for brand recall – with iSpot reporting an 88% brand match (meaning the percentage of survey respondents who remembered it was a Pluto TV commercial after seeing the ad), which is above the norm of 70%.Of viewers surveyed by iSpot, over a quarter pegged visual scenes as the best aspect of the 45s spot, while an additional 16% said the characters were the best part.

Here are some verbatim viewer sentiments on the ad from iSpot’s survey:

  • “It was pretty funny actually. I kinda tuned out when I saw it was on a farm, but it reeled me back in.”
  •  “This was by far the most entertaining & funny advertisement that I've seen in years. My favorite line as the camera pans to the rugged landscape, was when it said "we raise couch potatoes" was very funny because everyone was sitting in a field of potatoes shaped into couches. I will definitely remember the advertiser as well as the ad for a very long time.”

Pluto TV over the past year has been expanding and revamping its programming lineup, including with new category organization as well as more content joining the platform from NBCUniversal, Lionsgate and others under a deal announced last week. In the weeks ahead of the NFL showdown, Pluto TV also launched an “NFL Super Bowl Classics” channel that showcased past Super Bowl games and specials, which continues to air on the FAST until February 21. And before its Super Bowl ad debut and ahead of Pluto’s approaching 10-year anniversary, the company unveiled a new brand look with an updated logo, motion graphics and black and yellow color scheme.

Check out Pluto TV’s 45-second Super Bowl spot below: