The Super Bowl's commercial breaks were once a time of great anticipation. Not even a decade ago, Americans circled the television during breaks in the action, eager for the big reveal of a new pop culture meme or a surprise celebrity appearance.

But by the time Super Bowl XLVIII kicks off from MetLife Stadium this Sunday evening, the majority of the commercials will have already been on the internet for several days, making them old news to the millions of viewers who've already seen the ads on YouTube and shared them with their friends.

As of the Thursday before the game, 22 of the 50 - 55 ads that will be released at this year's game have been posted on the internet in full, with more certain to come in the next three days. And 12 other Super Bowl ads have been preceded by teaser videos that serve as commercials for commercials.

With the average 30-second slot at the Super Bowl costing brands a cool $4 million, it would seem counterintuitive that they would spoil the surprise by giving away details about the ads in advance, let alone the commercials in their entirety.

But that logic doesn't take into account that the Super Bowl is no longer the only game in town. Though the Super Bowl's audience of 110 million American viewers will almost definitely make it the most watched television program of 2014, brands are beginning to find they can reach large numbers of consumers just as easily online.

This year, for instance, Budweiser's extremely popular "Puppy Love" commercial was viewed more than 14.6 million times on YouTube in the 30 hours after it was released — an audience that doesn't come near the number of people who will see the spot during the game itself, but eclipses the 10.3 million people who watched Breaking Bad's series finale this past fall.

According to YouTube, 2013 gameday commercials that ran on the site prior to the Super Bowl were viewed 3.4 times more often than those that weren't over the course of the following year.

"I think what you're experiencing is how with their digital campaigns fully integrated, marketers are really thinking about how to get full leverage out of this Super Bowl," said YouTube's director of global industry development, Suzie Reider.

Marketers also believe that releasing their ads or teasers early allows them to grab a larger share of people's attention in the days leading up to the game. GoDaddy chief communications officer Karen Tillman said that releasing content early allows the brand to deliver its message without having to compete with the other advertisers fighting to connect with consumers on Super Bowl Sunday.

So far, GoDaddy's ad, featuring Danica Patrick in a muscle suit, has more than 750,000 views since being posted on YouTube last week, with a teaser video for another Super Bowl ad garnering an additional 138,000 views.

"We wanted to start the conversation last week to show where we were and what we were doing," Tillman said. "I think it captures attention and contextualizes for people what they’re going to see in the ad."

Posting ads early can also significantly extend the life of a Super Bowl campaign. YouGov's BrandIndex reports that Axe body spray enjoyed a significant uptick in both online buzz and consumer purchase intent after it became the first advertiser to post its 2014 Super Bowl ad Jan. 14.

SodaStream chief marketing officer Ilan Nacasch said that in the era of social media, this sort of pre-game conversation is critical for brands to convert new customers.

For its part, the Israeli home soda kit manufacturer has been the subject of a great deal of social media chatter this past week as a result of controversies surrounding its decision to chide rivals in its Super Bowl ad and the location of a SodaStream factory on a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

"I think that the conversation you can have with your consumers ahead of the big reveal is something that has a higher value for the longterm than just the surprise of the reveal during the super bowl," Nacasch said. "The great advantage of social media is about sparking conversations, and that’s what we want to do."

To be fair, the big reveal on Super Bowl Sunday is not without its mourners in the advertising community, which has for years showcased its best work on gameday. 

David&Goliath executive creative director Colin Jeffery said that airing the commercials early takes some of the excitement out of the experience, and that from a creative perspective, he'd prefer to have everyone see his work for the first time all at once.

But with all the free advertising brands can get from placing their ads online beforehand, Jeffery couldn't help but admit that Kia made the right decision when the auto maker released the Super Bowl ad Jeffery worked on earlier this week.

"When you look at the numbers and the metrics of releasing the ad early, you can see how much exposure you get," Jeffery said. "From a business standpoint, you really can't argue with it."

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