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Nintendo flat-out dominated video game national TV advertising for the first half of 2021. But depending on your programming of choice, you may not have noticed.

Overall, the industry drove 3.73 billion TV ad impressions, with an estimated $32.4 million spent, according to TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv.

Nintendo rules the year so far, with 68% of total ad impressions. The company commands 12 of the top 20 individual spots of the year to date and every one of the top five. And it paid for it, too. According to iSpot data, Nintendo is solely responsible for nearly half (47.7%) of gaming’s overall TV ad spend for the year.

Sony’s PlayStation follows with 20.2% of impressions and 30.2% of spend. Microsoft’s Xbox, meanwhile, has 4.4% of impressions and 13.6% of spend.

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It’s worth noting that the three diverge dramatically in how they targeted their respective TV ad activities.

Nintendo aired 79 spots, primarily on kids-focused programs. The top five networks by impressions for Nintendo ads included Nick (26%), Disney (24%), Cartoon Network (22%), Nick Toons (6.5%), and Disney XD (3.6%). The top shows were SpongeBob SquarePants, The Amazing World of Gumball, The Loud House, Big City Greens, and Teen Titans Go!

Sony took a far more “mature” track. The top five networks airing its 47 spots were ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, Adult Swim, and ESPNU. Shows included SportsCenter, NBA basketball, College football, SportsCenter with Stan Van Pelt, and College basketball. Xbox followed a similar tack, also targeting ESPN, ABC, and Adult Swim, but adding TNT and Fox to its lineup.

The three brands also took different approaches with the content of their ads. Nintendo primarily advertised specific Switch games, led by Super Mario 3D World, Pokémon, Among Us, Animal Crossing, and Mario Golf in the first half of 2021.

Meanwhile, Sony took a more platform-based approach, promoting the PlayStation Plus subscription service over individual titles. Only one of Sony’s spots in the top 20 promoted an individual title: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (81.6 million impressions).

Xbox straddled that line. Its only ad among the top 20 spots was a platform overview featuring Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star Simu Liu. The rest were targeted ads for games like MLB: The Show 21, Scarlet Nexus, and Cyberpunk 2077.

In terms of creative content, Nintendo’s ads steal the show, with several of its top ads scoring well above the norm for the video game industry. According to Ace Metrix Creative Assessment survey data from iSpot, three of Nintendo’s top five spots (by TV ad impressions) garnered at least 5% more attention than the norm for video game ads during the first half of 2021.

Here are the top ads of 2021 so far for each publisher, plus data from iSpot on where each appeared most:

Nintendo

My Way: Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

  • Impressions: 301.6 million
  • Estimated spend: $1.29 million
  • Airings: 2,479
  • Top network: Disney Channel
  • Top show: SpongeBob SquarePants

PlayStation

Explorers

  • Impressions: 170.3 million
  • Estimated spend: $1.8 million
  • Airings: 844
  • Top network: ESPN
  • Top show: SportsCenter

Xbox

Games Change Your World

  • Impressions: 143 million
  • Estimated spend: $4.2 million
  • Airings: 152
  • Top network: ESPN
  • Top show: NBA basketball

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