This Year’s Most High-Stakes Super Bowl Showdown Is YouTube vs. Facebook

How both sites stack up in the battle for brands

If you visit YouTube during the Super Bowl, you likely won't miss Anheuser-Busch, which bought the masthead of Google's video site. But the brewer's also going big on Facebook, where it's paying for promotions and hosting autoplay videos.

Budweiser and Bud Light are classic Super Bowl brands, and this year they also illustrate one of the top digital dynamics fueling the marketing war behind Sunday's game. In the ever-escalating rivalry between Facebook and YouTube, how do the two video giants stack up?

Measurability: What counts as a view?

YouTube: A view only counts—for billing and the tally users see—after a video runs for 30 seconds (or the entire length, if shorter than :30).

Facebook: A view counts after a user has had the autoplaying video on-screen for three seconds or more, even if the user doesn't click to start the sound. After three seconds the video will register a public view. For billing purposes, however, Anheuser-Busch said it only pays for a view after 30 seconds, similar to how it's billed on YouTube.

Partnerships: How are they attracting brands?

YouTube: Epic Meal Time's Harley Morenstein is hosting an AdBlitz halftime show on YouTube, and brands like Mercedes-Benz, Snickers, and Bud Light will get a lift for their videos from YouTube stars sharing the show. Google's AdBlitz is part ad product, part contest for brands to share their commercials across the Internet and let users vote for their favorite ones. 

Facebook: Facebook Super Bowl targeting has become more sophisticated this year. It is building dynamic profiles on users that break down their interests in the game and surrounding the game as it's being played. And, of course, it lets brands target those groups. Toyota, Pepsi and Budweiser are among the brands embracing the Super Bowl targeting tactics. 

Dominance: Who has the edge?

YouTube: With a longer history of hosting Super Bowl ads and brands' add-on videos, YouTube will likely remain the go-to source for those hunting game-day spots. The strengths of the platform include the fact that the videos can be shared more easily across the Internet, including brand websites, blogs and major media sites. 

Brands also like to host videos on YouTube given the search bump they receive from Google. In short, YouTube is more of a channel for brands at this point, so users are there to consume video and view more than one.

Facebook: Video views cost less than they do on YouTube, per an Anheuser-Busch exec, who declined to reveal exact dollar figures. However, a YouTube masthead normally costs $500,000 and likely ramped up to four times that amount for the Super Bowl, say media buyers.

Aside from affordability, Facebook's targeting is unmatched in the industry because of how much it knows about its users' interests. Videos are easily served to users right in their News Feeds. They don't have to go searching.

Assessment: What are the drawbacks?

YouTube: Intent. Users go to YouTube for specific videos, so unless a brand buys a masthead ad, its video may not be served to a random visitor. And sharing a video, while more flexible with YouTube's embed options, isn't as easy as it is on Facebook, where users are always signed in and click just one button to Like and spread the video.

Facebook: Unless visitors are Facebook users logged into the network, they won't see a video hosted or promoted there. Facebook is largely walled off from the rest of the Internet, which is why most brands won't have a Facebook-only strategy. 

But wait: What about Twitter?

No self-respecting Super Bowl marketer lacks a strategy for the messaging platform. Twitter's video presentation has only gotten more sophisticated, and there always is Vine for sharing brands' clips.

Also, the NFL posts video highlights from the game, a first during this year's playoffs, giving advertisers like Ford a chance to sponsor yet more football in real time, and Twitter takes a cut of the ad sales as part of its Amplify program. There's no doubt that some of the most active social conversations around the game's biggest moments will occur on Twitter, as they have for years.

Winner: Who comes out on top?

Facebook and Twitter are changing the paradigm with sophisticated targeting that almost seems to magically hit users with Super Bowl ads as they discuss the game, but YouTube remains the go-to video platform where Super Bowl spots live longer and generate more views.