Unruly-Most-Shared-Ads-of-Super-Bowl-2016-Feb2016With the Super Bowl well and truly in the rear view mirror, various analyses have emerged surrounding the performance of the ads aired. Most of these look at the digital reverberation or impact of the commercials – such as post-game search behavior, social buzz – which makes sense given that it will take time to see what type of broader impact the commercials had for advertising brands.

With that in mind, the following list shows the so-called winners and losers among advertisers, at least for the time being. Following this list is another with more audience-focused data.

  • This Super Bowl featured more of a skew towards humorous ads than last year, with ads also tending to be shorter, as almost three-quarters were 45 seconds or shorter, per Ace Metrix. The company also notes a decline in themes such as animals, cute babies/children, and sexy ads. The most likable ad this year was Doritos’ “No Dogs Allowed,” according to Ace Metrix’s post-game review [download page].
  • Doritos also topped another list, proving to be the most engaging Super Bowl ad according to a Qualtrics and Lucid study that tracked consumers’ facial expressions while they watched the ads. Doritos’ “Ultrasound” commercial beat out Marmot’s “Love the Outside” and Heinz’s “Wiener Stampede” as the most emotionally engaging ad.
  • One more for Doritos, which easily was the most-shared ad of the Super Bowl, with almost 900,000 shares as of the day after the game. That was more than twice as many shares as the next-most shared ad, T-Mobile’s “Restricted Bling,” according to Unruly’s count. However, overall sharing of the top 10 Super Bowl ads was down by 36% from last year, per separate data from Unruly, which attributes the decline in part to advertisers not releasing on multiple platforms and a lack of lift from celebrities.
  • Although the Doritos spot might have been the most likable, engaging, and shared, Hyundai’s “First Date” topped USA Today’s annual “Ad Meter,” with Heinz’s “Wiener Stampede” in second and the Doritos spot in third.
  • The Super Bowl ads generated close to 3.3 billion social impressions during the game, notes iSpot.tv, with nearly 2.5 million social actions. Across Facebook and Twitter, men were responsible for a slight majority (52%) of ad engagement, while the primary age group engaging with ads was the 35-44 bracket. Online sentiment skewed overwhelmingly positive, with the average reaction being 88% positive to this year’s ads. Separately, iSpot.tv reveals that Mountain Dew’s “Puppymonkeybaby” was the most engaging Super Bowl ad on game day in terms of social actions, with Hyundai and T-Mobile airing the 4 other most engaging commercials (2 each).
  • More than 15 million people saw tweets about the Super Bowl telecast, reveals Nielsen, with these tweets seen 1.3 billion times throughout the night. This “Twitter TV audience” skewed male (53%), with the majority (56%) over the age of 25. Brand-related activity totaled 1.4 million authors and 4.6 million tweets, with Esurance’s “Esurance Sweepstakes” campaign taking the top rank with more than 1.6 million tweets. Moreover #EsuranceSweepstakes was the top ad hashtag (1.6 million), far ahead of #PepsiHalftime (244k) and #PuppyMonkeyBaby (75k). However, T-Mobile’s “Steve Harvey Restricted Bling” picked up the most tweet “authors,” with 274,000.
  • Data from Amobee Intelligence, as reported by CNBC, likewise shows that while it did not advertise during the game, Esurance picked up significant social activity on the basis of its sweepstakes campaign. In fact, as with Nielsen’s analysis, Amobee finds that Esurance led the brand-related conversation on Twitter.
  • As part of its “Digital Bowl Report” [download page], Merkle shows that TurboTax was the overall winner in terms of digital media performance, with a particularly strong SEO showing. Amazon ranked highest for social media, though, while several brands tied for the top spot in the paid search rankings.
  • Although search volume for Doritos spiked while its ad aired, Audi’s r8 Commander spot and Jeep’s Portraits commercial generated the most search interest during the game, according to Search Engine Watch. Separately, an analysis from TVSquared indicates that Amazon Echo saw the biggest increase in search traffic in New York, Chicago, and Charlotte, while Fitbit experienced the largest rise in Dallas.
  • Social engagement overall grew by 44% this year, per MediaPost’s Digital Engagement Index, which is based off ListenFirst data. While Budweiser enjoyed Peyton Manning’s plug after the game (see its effect on Budweiser’s Super Bowl tweets here), its ad failed to enter the top 10 in social media engagement. Other ListenFirst data cited by Ad Age finds that GoPro’s ad had the biggest impact of the advertising brands on the size of its social community.

In other Super Bowl-related data:

  • Overall, preliminary data from Nielsen indicates that the Super Bowl telecast drew in 111.9 million TV viewers (the 3rd most-watched telecast ever), reaching 54.3 million homes for a US household rating of 46.6. In fact, some 72% of US homes with TVs in use were tuned into the Super Bowl telecast, which would represent the highest household share since the 1982 Super Bowl if the preliminary figure holds true.
  • The Super Bowl this year was the second-most cluttered ever in terms of ad loads, according to Kantar Media, with the 49 minutes and 35 seconds of advertising and promos representing 22% of the total broadcast. Auto was again the leading category with 11 spots and 9 minutes of ad time, while Anheuser-Busch InBev was the top advertiser with 3-and-a-half minutes of ad time. Meanwhile almost one-third – or 17 – of the brands airing a commercial were first-time advertisers, with this both the highest number and highest percentage going back at least as far as 2012. Interestingly, of the 40 parent companies that advertised last year, only 22 returned for this year’s event. That attrition rate of 45% is on par with the 47% average from 2006-2015.
  • Of the 60 national ads aired from kickoff through the end of the game, Marketing Land notes that 45% contained hashtags, the lowest percentage since 2012. Slightly more than one-third (35%) of the ads contained a URL, while Twitter and Facebook were each explicitly mentioned in 3 ads.
  • Unmetric says that it tracked more than 44,000 unique pieces of Super Bowl-related content in the lead-up to – and during – the big game, almost half of which was published on the day itself. That represents almost a 50% increase from the amount of content published surrounding last year’s game, which speaks to the ever-growing volume of content being created today.
  • The top-rated ads from last year’s game (in 2015) achieved a sustained social buzz that lasted an average of 25 days after the game, reports Adobe Digital Index.
  • Mobile app usage was highest at kickoff, says Localytics, with social networking apps being launched the most often. Flurry, for its part, notes that there was a 21% year-over-year rise in mobile app session activity during this year’s game, with in-game session activity over-indexing a typical Sunday by a larger degree than last year. Flurry’s analysis suggests that app usage was actually highest during the third quarter, indicating that attention might be lowest for TV spots then, although that may have presented advertisers with an opportunity to spread the message to the second screen at that time.

Pre-Game Research


Close to 190 million Americans are expected to watch Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, reports the NRF, based on a survey of more than 7,000 adults. The 77% of respondents planning to watch the game is the highest percentage in at least the past decade. This year almost one-quarter (23%) of viewers said that the commercials are the most important part of the Super Bowl, while 45% feel that the game itself is most important.

The 18-24 age group seems to have the most positive feelings about the commercials. They’re more likely than the average respondent to say that:

  • Super Bowl TV commercials make them aware of advertiser brands (21.7% vs. 17.5%);
  • The ads influence them to buy products from the advertisers (16.7% vs. 10.3%); and
  • The ads influence them to search online for more information (14.8% vs. 8.9%).

Meanwhile, this age group is the least likely to feel that advertisers should save their money and pass the savings on to the public (13.6% vs. 16.1%).

Below is a brief list of Super Bowl-related research with links to sources for readers interested in delving more into the stats.

  • The average rate for a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl has grown by 76% over the last decade, from $2.5 million in 2006 to $4.4 million in 2015, per Kantar Media. (This year the ads sold out at somewhere around $5 million per 30-second spot.) Over the decade-long period from 2006 to 2015, ad spending on the game has more than doubled, growing from $162.5 million to $345.4 million, due not only to pricing inflation but also to increased clutter. Kantar Media reports that average ad time in 2006 was 44 minutes and 15 seconds, while last year ad time totaled 48 minutes and 5 seconds. Interestingly, though, the number of ads has decreased since 2006, with total ad time instead more influenced by longer ads. Last year, 22 ads (or 37% of those aired) were at least 60 seconds in length, while in 2006 only half as many (11 ads) were of that length, representing 16% of those aired.
  • This decade, auto manufacturers have been the most likely to air ads in the Super Bowl, with 6 brands last year advertising during the game, according to Kantar Media. Interestingly, an Ace Metrix analysis indicates that auto Super Bowl ads with celebrities in them have performed better (along a composite measure that includes likability and persuasion) than those without celebrities. By contrast, Super Bowl ads in general that have celebrities in them have generated lower Ace Scores than those without celebrities, per the analysis.
  • While the NRF data suggests that 189 million Americans will watch the Super Bowl, a report from Unruly released last year indicates that the potential audience for advertisers is much larger than those simply watching on TV. Based on a survey of more than 1,200 consumers, Unruly reported that roughly half of Super Bowl ad viewers only watched the commercials online. Brands have been teasing or releasing their ads before the Super Bowl – iSpot.tv data indicates that through February 2, 37 brands had released 67 ads or teasers associated with the game – and Unruly recommends doing so on the Thursday before the big game. Last year’s Super Bowl generated a record amount of online video ads shares, says Unruly, with the 9 million shares representing a 73% increase from the year prior.
  • Through February 2nd, Super Bowl-related ads had been viewed slightly more times on Facebook (75 million) than on YouTube (74.9 million), per iSpot.tv.
  • A survey of 400 US consumers from Adobe Digital Index (ADI) finds more planning to watch Super Bowl ads on Facebook than YouTube. Older respondents (Gen Xers and Boomers) were more likely to say they would visit a Super Bowl advertiser website after the game than during it, though Millennials were most likely to say they would do so during the game itself. Social mentions for top advertiser brands last year remained above daily averages for 25 days last year, per ADI.
  • Separately, Unruly reveals that Volkswagen’s “The Force,” from 2011’s Super Bowl, remains the most-shared Super Bowl ad of all time, with more than 5 million shares across social media “and the blogosphere.”
  • For its part, Ace Metrix reports that Budweiser’s “Puppy Love,” aired during the 2015 Super Bowl, is the most liked Super Bowl ad of the past 5 years. In fact, Budweiser has aired the 3 most likeable ads of the past 5 years, per the report, which also notes that Doritos has aired 5 of the 25 most-liked ads.
  • Although more than 1 in 10 consumers surveyed by the NRF believe that the ads will influence them to buy products, Communicus is out with its annual research arguing that the commercials aren’t an effective way to spend advertising dollars. In analyzing the effectiveness of more than 150 ads from the past 4 Super Bowls via surveys of the same consumers both pre- and post-game, Communicus indicates that only 1 in 5 commercials will generate “any meaningful movement for the brand on future purchase intentions or other marketers of brand health.” Worth noting is that – per Kantar Media’s data – 21% of the brands airing commercials last year (8 in total) spent more than 10% of their annual media budget on their Super Bowl.
  • In its own annual survey of Super Bowl Ad Engagement, Brand Keys notes that only 13 of the 33 advertising brands included in this year’s survey are considered both engaging and entertaining by consumers. A chart mapping out engagement and entertainment for each advertising brand can be accessed here [pdf].
  • In looking at the search ad performance last year of Super Bowl advertisers against a group of advertisers who did not air an ad during the Super Bowl, Marin Software shows that the advertisers experienced a large spike in search ad impressions and conversions without an appreciable increase in cost-per-click. This pattern was consistent throughout all of February, per the report, meaning that advertisers enjoyed a decreased cost-per-lead during the entire month.
  • Among likely Super Bowl viewers in the NRF survey, roughly 1 in 10 said that the half time show is their most important part. In looking back at the past 6 half time shows, Nielsen finds that Bruno Mars (2014) enjoyed the most post-game music consumption, though Madonna (2012) had the greatest percentage lift in total album sales, digital downloads and streaming the week after the event. That was largely the result of the release of the first single from her album during Super Bowl week, says Nielsen, along with buzz surrounding the way in which the show closed.
  • 1 in 5 adults in the US are likely to use their mobile phone during the halftime show, according to a Quixey survey of more than 2,000 adults (18+). The survey results indicate that a high proportion (41%) of respondents who have clicked on a mobile ad did so inadvertently. Interestingly, a separate report released a day earlier – from Retale – similarly notes that 60% of mobile users surveyed said that when they typically click on banner ads while using a mobile device “it’s usually by accident.”
  • Almost 8% (7.7%) of adults surveyed by the NRF plan to purchase a TV for Super Bowl Sunday, a figure down from last year’s 8.8% but nevertheless considerably higher than in 2007 (2.8%). These TV-buying adults might be influenced by a perception that it’s a good time to buy a TV: a FatWallet.com-commissioned survey of 1,000 adults finds that a leading 25% share of respondents feel that the Super Bowl is the best time to buy a TV, beating out Black Friday (18% share) and December sales (7%).
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