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Super Bowl 2019 saw the lowest ratings in 10 years. While the game may not have been as exciting as years past, what about the ads? Which brands fared best in the post-game analyses that continue to roll in? Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers, mostly from research examining the digital reverberation or impact of the commercials (it’ll take time to see what type of broader impact the commercials had for advertising brands).

The following list highlights top advertising brands across various metrics – with sources and links provided. Following that list is another with more audience-focused data. As in previous years, it’s worth noting that there’s no clear-cut winner by way of the following metrics – some seemed to do better in some areas than others…

  • Most Viewed ad online: Stella Artois “Change Up the Usual” which had more than 48 million views across top video platforms and websites as of the Monday after the game. This ad was followed by Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes the Cut” (39.8 million) and Hyundai’s “The Elevator” (38.3 million). Source: AcuityAds.
  • Top Ad on YouTube: Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes The Cut” ad. At the time of writing, this had received more than 38 million views on the platform with in excess of 15,000 engagements. However, far exceeding that engagement number was Marvel’s Avenger ad, which racked up more than half a million engagements despite getting far fewer views. Source: Tubular Insights.
  • Most Effective Ad: Bumble: “The Ball Is In Her Court”. This ad featuring Serena Williams invoked intense emotional responses from viewers according to Unruly, although confusion was higher than normal for this ad. Source: Unruly.
  • Top TV spender based on new creative: Budweiser. The beer brand spent an estimated $33.2 million on new creative for the Super Bowl, with Amazon taking second place at $27.5 million. Total TV ad spend for the week reached $1.5 billion, while new spend more than quadrupled, reaching $548 million. As the mainstage for releasing new commercials, in-game Super Bowl ads were responsible for 70% of all new ad spend, generating $382 million in revenue. Source: Kantar.
  • Top ad by digital share of voice: Verizon’s “The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here.” This spot captured a 13.5% share of digital voice on game day, with almost 87 million TV ad impressions, almost 8 million earned online views and nearly 48 million social impressions. It was followed in the rankings – which exclude movie trailers and show promos – by Xbox’s “We All Win” (9.9% share of voice) and Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes the Cut” (9.2%). Source: iSpot.tv [download page]
  • Top brands by offline brand metrics lift: Pepsi, Sprint, Turbo Tax and Avocados from Mexico. These were the only four brands among Super Bowl advertisers to place among the top 10 gainers in positive buzz (people who have heard positive things about the brand), word-of-mouth (brands that people have talked about with friends) and purchase consideration. Pepsi was the top brand for lift in positive buzz, while Turbo Tax led all with its increase in word-of-mouth, and Avocados from Mexico emerged victorious in purchase consideration gains. Source: YouGov.
  • USA Today Ad Meter Winner: NFL: “The 100-Year Game”. The ad took the top ranking with an average rating of 7.69 out of 10, with the commercial proving particularly appealing to women (8.15), people with income of $25-50k (8.12) and those ages 50-64 (8.33). Amazon’s “Not Everything Makes the Cut” ranked second (7.34) and Microsoft’s “We All Win” came in third (7.07). Source: USA Today.
  • Brand with the most social mentions during the game: Pepsi. Pepsi generated the most online mentions in this report, with almost 72k social mentions during the Super Bowl. Doritos came in second with almost 30k mentions. Source: Talkwalker.
  • Most-mentioned advertiser on social media during the entire day: Bud Light. The ad mash up with HBO – that blended Game of Thrones with one of America’s most popular beers – was a hit with fans, achieving 31,545 mentions with 73.1% expressing positive sentiment. Source: Salesforce.
  • Twitter Brand-Bowl MVP: Platers. Mr Peanut had the highest percentage of all brand-related tweets during the Super Bowl, while the Bud Light and Game of Thrones co-branded effort had the spot that drove the highest velocity of tweets-per-minute. Meanwhile, Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Endgame trailer had the most retweets for a single tweet during the game, and Frank’s Red Hot was the brand without a national spot that was able to drive the highest percentage of brand conversation. Source: Twitter.
  • Most talked about “purpose-driven” ad on Twitter: Microsoft. With many Super Bowl advertisers using the large audience opportunity to go beyond ‘features and benefits’ advertising, the software firm came top with its “We All Win” ad. The video achieved over 10 million views on Twitter and over 8,500 mentions. Source: Sprinklr.
  • Top advertising industry: Technology took over from Automotive in 2019, with these brands taking 19% of the total advertising minutes (up from 13% last year). By contrast, the share of ad time for cars was down to 18% – in the previous year, Automotive ads took a quarter of all the time on TV ads. Source: Ace Metrix [download page]
  • Most emotionally engaging ad, based on facial tracking: M&Ms “Bad Passengers” ad. Using AI technology to track and interpret facial expressions and body language, RealEyes played each Super Bowl ad to a sample audience of 150 people. Based on proprietary metrics measuring attraction, engagement, impact and other factors, the chocolate bar ad featuring Married with Children’s Christina Applegate came top in effectiveness ratings. Source: RealEyes.
  • Top ad by biometric ranking: Google’s “100 billion words” ad. Ipsos tested each of the commercials during the Super Bowl in real-time using an objective scientific non-conscious method that measured reactions among 37 football fans who wore finger-worn biometric sensors. Google’s ad featured a scene containing images of political protest. Other high-performing ads used either nostalgic images or those that look into the future. Source: Ipsos.
  • Top brand by digital marketing excellence: Olay. Merkle scored brand activity across social media, digital media, SEO, and paid search, using various criteria for each. Olay’s first ever Super Bowl ad ranked in the top ten for all four categories. Despite having only one ad that aired in the game’s first quarter, Olay continued with social engagement throughout the game. It also was one of the top three in SEO. Source: Merkle.

Audience-Focused Data

  • Once again this year, roughly two-thirds (67%) of homes with TVs in use on Super Bowl Sunday were tuned into the Super Bowl telecast, though preliminary estimates from Nielsen found that the game drew an average audience of 98.2 million viewers, down considerably from last year’s event (103.4 million). Nielsen also reports that there were 32.3 million social media interactions related to the game across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (down from 170.7 million last year), with social activity peaking at 8:23PM ET with fans reacting to the halftime show performance wrap-up.
  • CBS streamed the Super Bowl to 7.5 million unique devices, per a wrap up from Streaming Media. This device count is up 20% from last year. The broadcaster counted 560 million total minutes of live game streaming, up 19% from last year. The average audience per minute was 2.6 million viewers.

Pre-Game Research

Almost 3 in 4 adults (72%) in the US plan to watch Super Bowl 53 this Sunday, according to an NRF survey of more than 7,000 US adults. While this translates to about 182.5 million adults planning to watch the game, that figure is actually down slightly from last year’s projected viewership of 188.5 million. The amount of planned retail spending surrounding the game has also dropped from 2018’s $15.3 billion to $14.8 billion.

The average spending per person of $81 has not changed from last year, though – with the total projected figure down only due to slightly smaller forecasted viewing figures. Meanwhile, unlike last year’s survey, which found 25-34-year-olds spending the most, 35-44-year-olds are projected to spend more than other age groups this year, at $123.26. Once again this year, the most popular spending area, by 79%, will be on food and beverages.

Super Bowl Ad Stats

Super Bowl ad prices continue to soar. 2018’s Super Bowl 52 saw the average price for a 30-second spot hit a record-breaking $5.25 million, per the latest research from Kantar Media. This translates into almost a doubling of price over the past decade. This is a phenomenon reserved for the Super Bowl, as average primetime ad rates fell by 12% during the same period.

The total ad time from the start to finish of Super Bowl 52 was 51 minutes and 20 seconds. While this is only 10 seconds less than the total ad time in 2017 the comparison between the number of ad spots is considerable. In 2017, there were 102 ad spots while in 2018 that number dropped to 86.

2017 remains the top year for Super Bowl ad revenue ($534 million), but 2018 did not fair too poorly, with what amounts to the second highest total revenue, at $482 million. However, when broken down, pre/post game revenue last year was the lowest seen since 2015, at $74 million (compared to 2017’s $115 million), while in-game ad revenue was at a respectable $408 million.

Here are some other stats from Kantar Media’s latest annual analysis:

  • Thirty-second ads are still the norm with half (51%) of ads in last year’s big game being that length. However, longer ads (60-second or more) are definitely permeating the event to a bigger extent, jumping to almost a third (31%) from about a fifth (19%) the year prior.
  • While Anheuser-Busch InBev remained on top of the Super Bowl spenders list in 2018, Fiat Chrysler jumped from the fourth position in 2017 to tie Anheuser-Busch, with each spending $42 million.
  • 2018 saw only three first-time advertisers – a significant drop from previous years (2015: 11; 2016: 10; 2017: 10).
  • As it has been since 2011, Auto Manufacturers remained the top advertising category last year. Six automakers ran ads in 2018 for a total spend of $94.2 million. Motion Pictures and Food (excluding candy) tied for the second place among advertising categories, each having a total spend of $26.2 million.

The $408 million spent on in-game advertising last year exceeded all the money invested across the 5-game World Series, which totaled $305 million.

Consumer Attitudes Towards Advertising

What’s more important? The actual sport, or all of the surrounding fanfare (and ads)? When the NRF fielded its survey and asked respondents what was the most important part of the Super Bowl, less than half (43%) named the game itself. At 23%, commercials are considered the second-most important part of the event, followed by getting together with friends (14%), the halftime show (13%) and fun food (7%).

Three-quarters (76%) of respondents see Super Bowl ads as entertainment, with far fewer (10%) saying they are influenced to make a purchase. However, 17% of respondents 17-34 years old said commercials influence them to buy, and another 16% report that they’re inspired to search online for more information.

Ad Effectiveness

Last year Unruly determined that brand recall of Super Bowl 51 ads was actually 15% lower than the US average. However, data from Super Bowl 52 [download page] revealed that brand recall was on the rise, as 78% of viewers were able to correctly identify the brands behind the ads.

It’s possible that brand recall went up as ads regained their humorous nature. 2017’s Super Bowl ads took a turn for the serious but 2018’s were back to showing humor. Unruly determined that Super Bowl 52 ads were 150% more humorous than ads in the US typically are.

Going against the trend for longer ads, Unruly also found that shorter ads can be as effective, if not more effective, than longer ads. In fact, super short ads (0-6 seconds) are more effective for increasing purchase intent than longer ads (7-120 seconds), according to Unruly’s analysis.

Here are some other findings from Unruly’s report that may have an impact on ad effectiveness:

  • 1 in 5 Super Bowl viewers do not watch TV regularly.
  • About half (49%) of viewers ages 25-44 follow Super Bowl coverage on sports sites, news sites and other sites across the web.
  • Roughly 3 in 5 (58.4%) football fans prefer to watch video on mobile phones, compared to 53.2% of average viewers.

Ace Metrix has also noted that 2018’s ads relied more on humor, but also used sentimentality and emotion to gain attention. In fact, the ad they named the top breakthrough ad of 2018’s Super Bowl, Toyota’s “Good Odds,” used emotion to garner high points in both attention and likeability.

Data from Ace Metrix indicates that, as determined in other studies, ad length is important. The impact of ad length on effectiveness is possibly determined by the message the advertiser is trying to convey. In contrast to Unruly’s findings, Ace Metrix’s breakthrough ads tended to be longer… Of the top 10 breakthrough ads, only 2 were less than one minute in length. The data also indicates that the top message-forward ads (i.e. those that put a story or narrative ahead of their brand placement, such as Toyota’s “Good Odds” ad) were one minute in length. However, for the most memorable ads, the majority of the top 5 ads (3) were 30 seconds in length.

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