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Super Bowl 50: A whole lot less to talk about

The 50th Super Bowl was a sporting spectacle, musical show down and advertising showcase all rolled into one. The underdog Denver Broncos won the sporting bit, creating a fairy-tale ending for Peyton Manning’s career.

Musical performances included Lady Gaga, looking like a fierce Hunger Games host in sparkly red suit as she belted out the national anthem, then at half time Beyoncé, Bruno Mars and Chris Martin all battled it out a rendition of Uptown Funk.

Despite all the hype, it appears nothing really got people excited enough to take to Facebook or Twitter to talk about it in the numbers seen last year. Indeed, Super Bowl related activity on Facebook was down 25% and down 49% on Twitter, after record breaking figures last year.

Not even the 60 nationwide, multi-million dollar ads could stir people’s emotions like last year. Why? Well overall we saw a lot of polished adverts but very little bravery or innovation.

Here are the four key things we can learn from this year’s Super Bowl ad breaks

Don’t keep your powder dry

Advertisers have a choice on release strategy for their ads. Some choose to preview the whole advert on social media in advance of the big game with the aim of generating organic shares and views. Others just release a teaser version or even save their ad/trailer to the game ad break itself. Last year Clash of Clans’ Liam Neeson ad was successful with a surprise release (now over 100 million views). However this year’s advertisers who left their ta-da moment to the big day lost out in total views and shares, seeing an average of only 519k views and 5.6k shares in total according to Pixability.

Amazon, a first-time Super Bowl advertiser, decided on a teaser strategy, but again failed to get people talking or sharing at the same scale as Mountain Dew or Heinz who previewed the full ad. On average those brands that previewed their ad in full saw 3.8m views and 15.7k shares. Some of this success can be put down to media outlets such as Good Morning America picking up many of the early ads and stoking the conversation around them as part of their pre-game build up.

It remains a big TV moment

The Super Bowl is still an appointment-to-view moment, with people gathering round the TV rather than opting to watch on another device.  The live TV audience for this year’s Super Bowl came in at 111.9m, the third highest ever, but only 1.25% viewers streamed it live. While CBS said the game averaged 1.4m live streaming viewers per minute, this is significantly less than the 2.46m Yahoo saw more tune into their live steam of the lowly Buffalo Bills v Jacksonville Jaguars played at Wembley in London last year.

Therefore the pressure on advertisers to make their moment count is huge. Just for a moment imagine you’ve just spent $5m and have just 30 seconds to speak to over 100million people. Would you try to make them laugh, or cry? Would you take a risk or opt for a sure bet?

While last year saw a focus on emotive messaging and a mixture of high production values and UGC, glossy humour delivered by well-known faces and the odd dog was the order of the day. In 2015 there were 27 notable celebs in the ads, there were at least 40 including Helen Mirren for Bud, Drake for T-Mobile, Christopher Walken for Kia, Missy Elliot and Alec Baldwin for Amazon Echo, Kevin Hart and several versions of Ryan Reynolds for Hyundai. Several advertisers like Hyundai, Toyota and T-Mobile couldn’t decide on just one ad, so ran several with different celebrities to emphasise different product benefits.

Heinz, Honda, Turbo Tax and Doritos were among several advertisers who featured considerably cheaper talent in the form of four legged friends. Only one advertiser Toyota briefly featured a cat but we did have the incredible puppymonkeybaby from Mountain Dew. America was simultaneously appalled and transfixed by the little creature, which has been the stuff of nightmares and gifs ever since the ad landed online last week.

No one is getting excited about real time reaction marketing anymore

In previous years there has been a huge amount of buzz around brands building a Super Bowl ‘war room’ to rapidly respond on social media to events mid-show. Brands like Bose built their campaign around turning real tweets into mini songs but the output felt very pre-planned, while we also saw the likes of Heinz create a ketchup bottle inspired by Lady Gaga’s outfit and Mountain Dew tweeting brands with 3 way mash ups of their ads. The number of favourites, likes, comments, shares these efforts saw was in the hundreds at best, compared to moment’s social media moments like Betty White tweet about Cam Newton’s walk out getting 80k retweets.

Interestingly the number of advertisers who featured a hashtag in their ads is down from 50% last year to 45% this year and even brands featuring a URL were down from 45% of all ads in 2015 to 35% of ads in 2016. It indicates brands see this moment as a one way push, not the time or the place to have a conversation with the audience or drive to e-commerce.

Measurement of success is still poorly defined

While the rules and strategies of American Football can be complex, the result of the game is clear cut. For advertisers investing millions, working out if they won or lost is less equivocal. Ultimately only econometricians can say whether a Super Bowl spot washes its face, but in the meantime the advertising trade media reports everything from social media shares and mentions to public polls. Without a clear measure that transcends TV or different digital platforms, it is near impossible to pick through this year’s crop. Doritos, with its 3 different ads consistently comes up in all of the top 10s, indicating a successful end to their 10 year crowd sourced competition ‘Crash the Super Bowl’.

For me though the real winner is Mountain Dew and their #puppymonkeybaby. In a year when people are talked less about SB50 on social media Mountain Dew successfully managed to cut through in a memorable and weird way to provoke a reaction to be the most talked about ad. As for the losers, notable by their absence in any of the top 3 social mentions or shares are the 11 film trailers featured in the ad breaks and the various brand and film studio collaborations.

Chrissy Totty is Head of Innovation for Vizeum UK


You can make your own mind up from the below:

Most viral ad based on shares on social media (Source: Unruly)

  1. Doritos “Ultrasound” – shared 893,465 times
  2. T-Mobile’s “Restricted Bling,” with 346,854 shares
  3. Budweiser “Give a Damn,”  with 301,317 shares


Most views on YouTube (Source: Pixability)

YouTube is still key for growing platform for advertisers, with total ad views up 2.6x on last year and the the top Super Bowl ad on YouTube generated 4.4m more total views than the top Super Bowl ad on Facebook.

  1. Hyundai “The Chase” – 18.5m views
  2. Pokémon – 17.6m views
  3. MINI USA – 17.1m views


Most views on Facebook (Source: Pixability)

  1. Hyundai “The Chase” – 14.1m views
  2. Budweiser “Give a Damn” – 13.2m views
  3. KFC – 6.6m views


Highest Engagement Rate on Facebook (Source: Pixability)

  1. Jeep “Portraits” 14% engagement rate.
  2. Prius’ “Heck on Wheels” 12% engagement rate,
  3. Jeep “4x4ever” 11% engagement rate.


Most Commented On …(Source: Pixability)

Mountain Dew’s “Puppymonkeybaby” spot with nearly 16,000 comments.


Most tweet mentions based on brand # mentions on Twitter during the game period

  1. Esurance - 835,101 Tweets
  2. Doritos - 238,770 Tweets
  3. Pepsi - 234,090 Tweets


Best Instagram use based on evalue comprised engagement, impact and responsiveness stats (Source Engagement Labs)

  1. Pokemon’s eValue score: 84.23
  2. Walt Disney Pictures’ The Jungle Book’s score: 77.22
  3. Squarespace’s eValue score: 74.65


Most popular

One well known measured is the USA Today Ad Meter, which features two US focus groups scoring the ad from 0 to 10 (10 being the best). The scores reveal a close battle but no runaway hit:

1. Hyundai, “First Date” Score: 6.91

2. Heinz, “Wiener Stampede” Score: 6.64

3. Doritos, “Ultrasound” Score: 6.61

4. Doritos, “Doritos Dogs” Score: 6.49

5. Hyundai, “Ryanville” Score: 6.27