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EDO Team October 17, 2023 3 min read

Live From New York: SNL Returns with a Bang

With the writers’ strike finally settled, Saturday Night Live (SNL) made its triumphant return this past Saturday with a star-studded episode hosted by Pete Davidson and featuring cameos from NFL star Travis Kelce and his (alleged!) new beau, Taylor Swift — as well as a musical performance from Ice Spice.

On top of delighting viewers who’ve been starved for fresh content, the season premiere was a boon for advertisers like Warner Bros. Pictures’ upcoming Wonka movie, Peacock’s Bupkis series (starring Davidson), and Applebee’s.

In fact, this Saturday’s episode was the most effective SNL broadcast for advertisers since we began tracking TV ad engagement in 2015. By this, we mean that viewers were more likely to engage online with the brands advertised during the season 49 debut than any other SNL episode, outperforming the average first-run SNL episode by 102%.

But what can brand advertisers expect from the rest of this season? We analyzed advertiser performance during the strike-shortened 2022-23 season to find out. 

What we found is that the ads that ran during the iconic sketch comedy program’s 2022-23 season were 2.5 times as engaging as the average ad that aired during the late-fringe daypart on broadcast networks, which runs from 11pm to 2am. That’s a serious performance, and certainly nothing to laugh at.

In our recent analysis, we broke down the show’s 2022-23 advertising performance by brand category, creative type, and more. Read on to learn which of the TV show’s ads generated the best engagement, and which industries enjoyed peak performance,

Even in a “transition year,” SNL delivers for brands

Following the departures of fan favorites like Kate McKinnon and Pete Davidson, SNL creator Lorne Michaels declared the 2022-23 season a “transition year,” and this turbulence was reflected in the show’s ratings and advertising performance. Due to the lower ratings, overall advertising engagement volume for SNL was down 24% from the 2021-2022 season.

However, the show’s ads were actually more engaging on a per-person level than they were the year prior. In other words, ads on SNL drove less total engagement this past year because there were fewer people watching them — but the viewers who were watching were more likely to engage with a brand online after seeing its ad.

Even in this “transition year,” SNL’s ads were 145% more engaging than the average late-fringe ad on a broadcast network. From October 2022 through the conclusion of the show’s most recent season in April 2023, SNL has been the highest-engagement broadcast program in the late-fringe daypart — with advertisers needing roughly 4.15 ad units on the average late-fringe broadcast show to enjoy the same engagement they got from a single SNL ad.

The upshot? Even in a tough year, SNL delivered far stronger advertising performance than any of its late-fringe broadcast peers.

A lesson for advertisers: Play to the pop culture enthusiasts

SNL viewers have an acute sense for comedy, current events, and pop culture trends — so it’s no surprise that ads in the Movies & Streaming category performed so well with them. 

A whopping 29% of the ads shown during the 2022-23 season belonged to this category, including the season’s most engaging ad:

  • An ad for Only Murders in the Building (Hulu), starring Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez — which aptly aired during the SNL episode hosted by Martin Short and Steve Martin — had the biggest spike in engagement of the season.

Additionally, non-entertainment brands that used comedy formats or actors also netted high engagement:

  • Taco Bell ran the most effective Quick-Serve Restaurant creative of the 2022-23 SNL season, starring former SNL cast member and comedic personality Pete Davidson. The Tex-Mex brand’s ad was a tongue-in-cheek, self-referential apology parody short that charmed comedy connoisseurs.

The data you need to improvise with flair

In a way, being a modern marketer is not so different from being an SNL cast member. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but both jobs do require top performers to combine a carefully laid-out plan with the ability to improvise and execute in real time.

While great comedic actors arm themselves with years of improv to make the perfect choice in the moment, great marketers turn to EDO’s real-time outcomes data. With a full breakdown of your advertising effectiveness by program, network, daypart, and genre, we have all the information you need to adjust to a shifting TV landscape and optimize your advertising engagement on a weekly basis.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more TV advertising intel — or schedule a meeting with us today.