Super Bowl 2014 Ads: Facts and Figures (Updated)

AceMetrix-Most-Effective-Ads-of-the-Super-Bowl-Feb2014The mountain of analysis concerning the Super Bowl and its ads continues to pour in. With a record average of 112.2 million viewers for the game, per Nielsen’s adjusted tally, brands had an opportunity to reach the largest TV audience ever recorded. So which brands did best? Which ads were tweeted about and shared the most? This article rounds up and sifts through the research surrounding the performance of the Super Bowl commercials.

First off, a look at the 10 most effective commercials of the Super Bowl, according to an analysis from Ace Metrix. To arrive at its rankings, Ace Metrix surveyed consumers who watched and scored each ad across a variety of standardized metrics. According to this analysis, Microsoft surprisingly scored the most effective commercial of the game, with its “Empowering” ad fetching an Ace Score of 710, way above last year’s high score of 665 (from Budweiser), and ranking as the second highest score in Ace Metrix history. Following Microsoft were Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” and Hyundai’s “Dad’s Sixth Sense,” each with a score of 681. Rounding out the top 5 most effective ads were RadioShack’s “Goodbye ’80s” (677) and Budweiser’s “Hero’s Welcome” (675).

On the other end of the spectrum, the least effective ad of the Super Bowl was GoDaddy’s “Bodybuilder” (432). GoDaddy also aired the fourth-least effective ad, “I Quit” (492), continuing its run of misery (at least according to Ace Metrix) from last year, when it also had 2 of the 5 least effective ads. Bud Light’s “Epic Night” (472) and GoldieBlox’s “Bring The Toys” (473) occupied this year’s 3rd- and 4th-least effective positions.

The Ace Metrix scores reflect the persuasive nature of the commercial (through desire, relevance, information, attention, change, and likability) and its watchability. Combined, the overall effectiveness score is designed to understand how a commercial performed from the twin angles of voluntary consumer consumption and the business goal of the advertiser.

While Ace Metrix had Microsoft on top, the USA Today’s Ad Meter, which gathered an online audience of 6,272 preregistered panelists from around the country, crowned “Puppy Love” the winner, making this the 12th of the past 14 years that Anheuser-Busch has aired the winning ad. The commercial was tops among both men and women, but came in second among 18-34-year-olds, ceding the top spot to Hyundai’s “Sixth Sense.” Meanwhile, among adults making $100-150k, Doritos’ “Cowboy Kid” was the top vote-getter.

Nielsen took a different perspective, rating the top ads by memorability and likability – with Microsoft nowhere to be found on either list.

Nielsen-Most-Memorable-Ads-Super-Bowl-Feb2014Using the memorability measure, Budweiser’s 60-second “Hero’s Welcome” won out, with a general brand memorability index of 195, meaning that it was 1.95 times as memorable as the average Super Bowl ad this year. That ad had some distance from its closest competitor, Doritos’ “Cowboy Kid” (177), with Budweiser taking the third position with its “Puppy Love” spot (169). Doritos was the only other brand to place 2 ads in the top 10 by memorability, with its “Time Machine” (141) commercial in the #10 position. Of note, while Ace Metrix may have scored Go Daddy’s “Bodybuilders” as its least effective ad, Nielsen had it in the 8th spot by memorability.

Nielsen-Most-Liked-Ads-Super-Bowl-Feb2014In terms of likability, Radio Shack’s “The Phone Call” picked up the top spot by a significant margin, with an index score of 140, meaning that it was 1.4 times as likable as the average ad. Trailing Radio Shack were Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” (129) and Doritos’ “Time Machine” (126).

A total of 5 commercials made it onto both of Nielsen’s lists: Budweiser’s “Hero’s Welcome” and “Puppy Love;” Radio Shack’s “The Phone Call;” Cheerios’ “Gracie;” and Doritors’ “Time Machine.” Interestingly, Part 1 of Wonderful Pistachio’s 2-part ad featuring Stephen Colbert made it onto the top 10 by likability, while Part 2 was in the top 10 for memorability.

Another ad scorer, Touchstorm, looked at how video content fared on advertisers’ YouTube channels, coming up with a composite ranking of how well the ads sustained audiences based on views, likability, velocity/acceleration, and subscriber conversion. The winner? A familiar name by now, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love.” Based on data through February 3rd, that spot was the most effective YouTube video campaign, ahead of Coca-Cola’s #AmericaIsBeautiful and RadioShack’s #InWithTheNew. Of note: Microsoft’s #empowering was the best-liked video campaign through that date.

How did ad executives perceive the ads? The Wall Street Journal surveyed went beyond consumers and surveyed ad execs too, revealing that among these respondents, Radio Shack, Chrysler, and Anheuser-Busch were the big winners.

Did these ads actually drive purchase intent? BrandAds ran the numbers via two surveys conducted across internet-connected devices – one completed by a control group prior to the game and another by a separate group exposed to the ads after the game.

This analysis found that Hyundia was the top-performing brand when measured by percentage increase in likelihood to purchase. Hyundia enjoyed a 39.5% lift in purchase likelihood, followed closely by Budweiser (37.8%) and Jeep (36.1%) and more distantly by Sony Crackle (25.6%) and Sonos (25%). The average increase across all the advertising brands was a more modest 6.6%. Some brands (16% of them) actually saw a decrease in purchase likelihood, according to the study, with Jaguar seeing the biggest drop (of 31.7%). Other insights from the study: lift in purchase likelihood was higher among men, under-18s, and those making less than $100k.

That study measured purchase likelihood among respondents who had seen the ads – but did viewers actually watch them? Apparently they did: Rentrak reports that while the game was a blowout, audience levels were stable throughout the game, with ad exposure nearly equal to viewership of the game itself. The most-watched ads of the game, per Rentrak, were from NFL.com, Kia, Audi, Coca-Cola and Nestle, each with an index of 104 compared to the average ratings of the game.

Social Mentions, Sentiment, Shares

Unruly-Most-Shared-Ads-of-Super-Bowl-Feb2014

The following is a distilled list of the various research surrounding the social aspect of the game and its ads:

  • As of February 3rd at 11am GMT, Unruly reveals that Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” was the most-shared ad by a large margin, having at that point picked up 1.31 million shares, already the 6th-most shared Super Bowl of all time. With Budweiser’s “Hero’s Welcome” (202,556 shares) generating the second-most shares, Budweiser vaulted ahead of Volkwsagen to become the most shared Super Bowl brand of all time.
  • Despite Budweiser’s stellar performance in the sharing department, AddThis reports that overall sharing was only up 1% for the 2014 Super Bowl compared to 2013, although this pertains to overall Super Bowl-related sharing, not just ads.
  • Also according to AddThis, the Budweiser and Bud Light ads were the most shared on Facebook. In fact, more sharing occurred on Facebook than on Twitter, after the opposite had occurred the previous 2 years.
  • An infographic from Extreme networks, the NFL’s official Wi-Fi analytics provider, indicates that 60% of Wi-Fi connected fans at the Super Bowl were sharing on Facebook, compared to 18% on Twitter and 17% on Instagram.
  • A survey conducted after the game by Lab42 found that 83% of respondents who used social networks during the game used Facebook the most, compared to 11% for Twitter.
  • According to MarketingLand.com’s review, 31 of the 54 national ads (57%) contained a hashtag, up from 50% last year. Among the various social networks, Facebook was mentioned in 5 ads, while Twitter was in 4 and YouTube 3. Google+ did not see any action.
  • An ExactTarget analysis agrees with MarketingLand.com’s finding that hashtags were mentioned in more ads than URLs. If using URLs, it pays to have good site performance, but that wasn’t the case for Budweiser, Cheerios, Coca Cola, Dannon Oikos and RadioShack, according to a study from Monitis, which found that each had problems with full page load speeds the morning after the game. (While the researchers posited that the morning after the game was the best time to run the analysis because viewers were presumably watching the game and not visiting websites, the extent of multitasking behavior in the US – and the paid search activity detailed below – calls that assumption into question. In fact, Adobe now says that advertiser’s site traffic grew to 1.6 times their average during Super Bowl Sunday, driven by mobile visits, which peaked just before the game for smartphones and right after the start for tablets.)
  • Interestingly, social media mentions for Super Bowl advertisers were higher in the second half of the game than in the first, per Adobe’s research. Almost 55% of the 1.9 million mentions that Adobe tracked occurred in the second half. Other data from Adobe’s report indicates that advertisers enjoyed social mentions that were 7 times higher than on their typical day. Radio Shack had the biggest growth in mentions, at an impressive 2,169% above its average, followed by Anheuser-Busch (1,879%), CarMax (1,765%), Axe (1,275%) and Oikos (1,213%).
  • There was obviously a tremendous amount of activity on Twitter: conversation about the Super Bowl (including the game, halftime show, and brands) reached 25.3 million tweets by 5.6 million authors, equating to 1.8 billion impressions and a unique audience of 15.3 million accounts. Those numbers courtesy of Nielsen’s SocialGuide. Twitter itself counted 24.9 million tweets around the Super Bowl during the game, up slightly from 24.1 million last year.
  • Also according to Nielsen, 2.4 million Twitter users posted 4.9 million tweets about the ads, with Esurance enjoying the highest amount of unique authors (1.2 million) and tweets (almost 1.9 million). Following Esurance were Budweiser (393,700 tweets) and T-Mobile (303,200 tweets).
  • Insights from Mass Relevance, as reported by Forbes, indicate that brands overwhelmingly chose Twitter over Facebook and Instagram for their real-time marketing around the game. This year, 29 of the Interbrand top 100 used Twitter for real-time marketing, up from 9 last year. By contrast, real-time marketing on Facebook and Instagram was down slightly. Wi-Fi connected fans at the game uploaded 5 pictures per second to Instagram, though, per Extreme networks.
  • Networked Insights analyzed [download page] more than 25 million real-time consumer conversations across sources including Twitter, Facebook, comment sections in YouTube, WordPress, and Disqus, and millions of blogs and forums, coming to the conclusion that Esurance not only had the highest volume of posts, but also one of the highest net sentiments (+25%). T-Mobile and H&M were next in terms of post volume, while Budweiser had the highest net sentiment (+26%), with Maserati (+23%) and Radio Shack (+22%) also scoring highly.
  • The Networked Insights research also uncovered that the top-performing advertiser among fathers was Bank of America, while among mothers it was Budweiser. For Millennials and beer drinkers, Bud Light topped the charts, while for Gen X, Esurance was the leading advertiser.
  • General Sentiment also entered the game, indicating that Microsoft’s “Empowering” captured the highest share of social engagement (11.7%), followed by MetLife (11.7%), Maserati (5.6%), and Doritos (5.3%).
  • While Go Daddy may have aired the least effective ad (per Ace Metrix), it was the brand that took the most trouble to reply to what consumers had to say about it, according to engagor, with Wonderful Pistachios and Sonos also highly engaged with their audiences.

Mobile, Search and More

This portion of the article deals with research surrounding mobile and search, as well as other miscellaneous pieces.

  • Fans at the game were engaged on their mobile devices throughout the experience, with the heaviest use of Wi-Fi coming during the halftime show, according to Extreme networks. These fans engaged with social networking applications the most.
  • Mobile data originating from the Super Bowl stadium broke records, according to AT&T and Verizon data reported by Computerworld.
  • Mobile sharing was up by 67% during Super Bowl Sunday compared to 2013, with sharing on Android nearly doubling, per AddThis.
  • Engagor reports that 90% of the buzz about the Super Bowl ads came from mobile devices on Super Bowl Sunday, with iPhones outpacing Android devices by a 3:1 margin.
  • According to the Lab42 survey, 83% of viewers used a second screen during the game, with smartphones (30%) narrowly ahead of laptops (29%) as the most-used device. Second-screeners were as likely to post about a commercial on social media as they were to post about the game (38% each). Interestingly, viewers were more slightly more likely to visit a brand’s social site after seeing its ad than to visit the brand’s website (22% vs. 17%).
  • About 8 in 10 Lab42 survey respondents gave the commercials positive ratings; a survey from AYTM, though, found that viewers were disappointed with the quality of the ads.
  • 3 in 10 respondents to the Lab42 survey said they watched a Super Bowl commercial again after the game; almost exactly the same proportion of respondents to the AYTM survey said they would probably watch ads online again after the game.
  • An article from MarketingLand.com reports that 2 spots made it onto Google Trends’ top 20 list – those were for Transformers 4 (200,000+ searches) and Sonos (100,000+ searches). Deeper analysis of the advertising brands’ search performance can be found here.
  • An analysis from AutoTrader.com, as reported by DirectMarketingNews.com, indicates that several auto brands enjoyed huge increases in searches within an hour after having their ads run during the Super Bowl. In particular, searches for Maserati’s Ghibli shot up by 2,143% within the hour.
  • Marin Software indicates that paid search impressions for auto advertisers were up by 35% from the previous Sunday, with clicks up 39%.
  • As reported below in MarketingCharts’ pre-game research, teasers had generated a large amount of views before the game. In addition to the analyses below, iSpot.tv reported that by 11:59 PM PST on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” had already garnered 32 million views on YouTube and iSpot.tv and almost half a million social actions (such as tweets and shares).
  • As of game time (Sunday 6PM, to be exact), data from Visible Measures by way of The Wall Street Journal reveals that Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” was indeed the easy leader in online views, racking up in excess of 36.2 million, more than twice as many as second-placed Dorito and its “Crash the Super Bowl.”

Was it all worth it? Well, brands could have run an “anti-Super Bowl ad campaign.”

Pre-Game Research

[Editor’s note: This portion of the article was originally published on January 28th.]
Nielsen-Affluent-Super-Bowl-Audiences-2003-2013-Jan2014The average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl spot has exceeded $3 million in the past couple of years, and is expected to hit $4 million this year. With Super Bowl XLVIII looming, new research concerning ads for the big game has been pouring in: a recent survey suggests that the ads are as big a draw as the game itself, while other pieces of research have emerged looking at advertising effectiveness, online sharing, and brand rankings.

The Super Bowl audience has numbered more than 50 million TV homes over each of the past 4 big games, according to Nielsen data, and the NRF projects that 181 million Americans will watch the game this year. What should be enticing to advertisers is Kantar Media’s finding [pdf] that tune-out during the average commercial during last year’s game was just 0.7%, a tiny figure also several times smaller than the average 3-4% for regular programming. In fact, Kantar says that last year, the average Super Bowl commercial had an audience size that was 1.6% bigger than the average audience for the game.

That tallies with survey results from VB&P, which found that 78% of respondents would prefer to watch the Super Bowl with rather than without commercials. In fairness, the NRF study found that among viewers, 47.5% consider the game itself to be the most important part, versus 24.9% finding the commercials most important.

Also encouraging for advertisers, though: as Super Bowl audiences grow, so has the percentage of affluent viewers. Nielsen reports that from 2003 through 2013, viewership grew from 43.4 million to 53 million TV homes, while the percentage of households viewing the game making more than $100,000 per year concurrently grew from 14% to 26.8%. In other words, more than 1 in 4 households that watched the Super Bowl last year had incomes of more than $100,000. (Most of the increase in share of high-income households occurred earlier in the 10-year period, as the above chart demonstrates.)

Interestingly, while Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Super Bowl ad sales have outgrown viewership in the past few decades, the advertising cost of $35 per thousand viewers last year was actually in line with other prime-time TV programs, a reflection of the massive reach of the game.

But is the advertising worth the cost? A study from Communicus suggests that only 1 in 5 Super Bowl ads sell products, with the ads more likely to generate awareness than to persuade viewers to actually buy products. For its part, VB&P’s survey indicates that one-quarter of respondents would be more interested in buying a product after seeing it advertised during the Super Bowl, while 15% of respondents claimed they would buy something while watching the game. (That figure was almost twice as high among youth, and also far higher among men.) And according to the NRF survey, almost 8 in 10 respondents view the commercials as entertainment, with far fewer indicating that they make them aware of advertiser brands (16.9%), influence them to buy products from the advertisers (8.6%) or influence them to search online for more information (8%).

Small businesses are skeptical about Super Bowl advertising’s effectiveness, per survey results from Sage North America. Only 37% of small businesses surveyed said that a national commercial aired during the Super Bowl would help their business, compared to 60% who believed it wouldn’t. That’s a fairly incredible result if these businesses aren’t factoring in the costs of the ad in their perception.

In fact, few marketers with limited resources invest in Super Bowl ads, per Kantar’s data. Last year, 4 advertisers – representing 12% of all Super Bowl advertisers – invested more than 10% of their annual media budgets into the game. By comparison, in 2011, 24% of advertisers poured in that amount of their media budgets, and in 2010, one-third of advertisers (13 in total) invested that much.

So which advertisers are on track to win this year, and which brands have seen some measure of success in the past?

The research from Communicus indicates that Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” spot aired last year was the most effective at winning the consumer over at the cash register. Of note, Ace Metrix last year pegged the spot as its most effective.

This year, Brand Keys’ latest Super Bowl Engagement Survey [pdf], which measures how advertisers’ brand engagement ratings will be affected by their Super Bowl spots, has determined that Doritos, Coca Cola, Hyundai, and M&M’s will be the biggest “winners” in engagement. At the other end of the spectrum, Intuit, TurboTax, Squarespace and Volkswagen will likely lose the most engagement points.

Volkswagen may not score engagement points, but it can at least boast to having its Super Bowl ads shared online more than any other brand. With the VB&P survey indicating that 7 in 10 Americans will pay attention to ads before the game, 52% will re-watch ads online after the game, and that 36% will share their favorite ad, there’s a significant opportunity for additional exposure before and after the big game. Unruly has taken a look at the statistics regarding Super Bowl ad shares (sources here, here, here and here), and has come to the following conclusions:

  • As of January 21, 2014, Volkswagen is the most-shared Super Bowl brand, with its ads attracting more than 7 million shares across Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere;
  • That result is primarily due to VW’s “The Force” being the most-shared ad ever, with 5.24 million shares;
  • Budweiser (6.95 million) is the next-most shared brand of all time, with no other brand cracking 3 million;
  • Budweiser picks up the 2nd- and 3rd-most most-shared ads of all time, with its “9/11” (3.34 million) and “Brotherhood” (2.73 million) spots;
  • The 10 most shared ads from Super Bowl 2013 generated more than 10 million shares, up 89% from the prior year (5.4 million);
  • The greatest amount of shares last year occurred the day after the Super Bowl (3.3 million), more than double the following day (1.6 million) and 9 times bigger than the number of shares on Super Bowl Sunday;
  • 60% of the most-shared Super Bowl ads ever were launched before the Super Bowl;
  • 7 of the top 20 ads last year were supported by teasers; and
  • While it took 57 views to generate one share in 2012, in 2013 it took just 36 views.

A round-up of some other interesting statistics concerning Super Bowl ads follows.

  • As of January 31st (the Friday before the game), Google reports that commercial teasers on YouTube have already been viewed 77 million times.
  • 71% of Americans will watch Super Bowl commercials this year, up from 68% last year, per a new Nielsen survey.
  • Funny ads are consumers’ favorite kind, according to the Nielsen survey; 95% of respondents to the VB&P survey agreed that humor makes a Super Bowl ad more memorable.
  • Kantar Media’s data indicates that the past 4 Super Bowls have had the highest amount of commercial time ever, with last year’s 51 minutes and 40 minutes of ads, commercial messages from the NFL and promotional announcements from the network the first to break the 50-minute mark. That was largely due to CBS re-airing a commercial pod that it originally aired just after the game, though. The previous high was 48 minutes and 10 seconds in 2011.
  • 15% of the ads aired during last year’s Super Bowl were 60 seconds or longer, compared to an average of 6% on a typical broadcast network.
  • Anheuser-Busch is the biggest spending advertiser over the past 5 years, roughly 50% ahead of the next-biggest spender, Pepsico.
  • First-time advertisers comprised 18% of advertisers in last year’s Super Bowl. That figure ranged from a low of 14% to a high of 27% during the 2009-2013 period.
  • While dot-com companies were more heavily represented than auto manufacturers during the 2009 and 2010 games, auto manufacturers have taken over in the past 2 years.
  • The venue sponsor MetLife is projected to earn about $10.4 million in Sponsorship Media Value from this year’s Super Bowl, according to Kantar, which translates to 6 minutes and 35 seconds of exposure during the game. For its part, Pepsi, the halftime sponsor, is expected to receive 4 minutes and 31 seconds of exposure, equating to roughly $7.2 million in Sponsorship Media Value.
  • Almost three-quarters of Nielsen survey respondents will watch the game only on a TV, however 15% will also use a smartphone, 14% a PC and 11% a tablet.
  • 33% of VB&P survey respondents said they would use a hashtag from a Super Bowl spot in social media. According to Kantar’s analysis, 41% of ads in last year’s game included a hashtag.

Fun fact to end with? According to the Census Bureau, as of July 1 2012 the populations of Seattle and Denver were almost exactly the same, with the former having just 270 more residents (0.04% more) than the latter.

A roundup of data from the 2013 Super Bowl can be found here.