Super Bowl advertisers may not have had a ring and a parade riding on the game, but the stakes were high. With NBC charging an average of $5.05 million for a 30-second spot (the network will make over $500 million on the game) and millions more spent on celebrity endorsements and production, brands shelled out big bucks with the hopes that their advertisements would resonate with the more than 100 million viewers who tuned in to watch the Eagles beat the Patriots.
For known brands, the widely watched live event provides an opportunity to reinforce their message. Smaller brands can use the game to get their names out there. Last year, for example, Pennsylvania building brand 84 Lumber spent $15 million on its immigration-themed advertisement, which led to a 10,000% increase in conversation around Lumber 84 from the day prior, according to ListenFirst.
While political ads — often reflecting opinions opposing Donald Trump's policies — were prevalent during last year's Super Bowl, advertisers took a lighter approach this year. It seemed that distracting consumers from the 24-hour news cycle was the name of the game, with advertisers focusing on goofy laughs rather than current-event-driven fare.
The levity seems to have paid off. "Humor remains a common theme for Super Bowl ads boosting brands like Amazon and Tide," says Jason Klein, co-CEO and co-founder of ListenFirst, a data analytics company.
Tide saw a 3,813% increase in organic search and social conversation on Sunday, according to ListenFirst, while Doritos and Mountain Dew experienced 935% and 866% boosts, respectively. Search and conversation around Amazon Echo grew 110% following the Alexa ad, which, according to emotional analytics firm Canvs, was the funniest ad, registering 37% of the emotional reactions that invoked humor.
"This time last year, we were at the start of something very different for America, and the average consumer felt much more involved in expressing that," says Tania Yuki, the founder and CEO of social intelligence firm Shareablee.
"This year, advertisers heard loud and clear that the consumer wanted something that would make them feel happy and excite them," she says, adding that consumers are more likely to share upbeat content.
And share they did: Social sharing of Super Bowl videos was up 55% from last year, while consumer engagement across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram was up 26% year over year, according to Shareablee. The Doritos versus Mountain Dew commercial garnered the most social actions, according to iSpot TV, while a humorous one promoting Australian tourism followed.
"It's a testament to the kinds of ads produced this year that a consumer was 55% more likely to share them than they were a year ago," Yuki says.
The popular ads that did get political focused on positivity and togetherness. Budweiser's "Stand by You" ad, for example, had the second-most engagement across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Rather than taking a side in a social or policy debate, the ad highlighted the brand's disaster relief efforts. The spot — a departure from the brand's famous Clydesdales — caused a 346% boost in conversation and search around Budweiser, according to ListenFirst.
Sticking to humor was smart not only because it resonated with consumers, but also because it's the safer choice. Ram Trucks' well-intentioned ad, which included a voice-over of a sermon given by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., received heavy criticism from those who argued his words had a much larger purpose than selling pickups, with the ad even inspiring a New York Times editorial. Canvs rated it the most embarrassing ad based on social media reactions, with ListenFist adding that while conversation around the brand exploded, it was mostly negative.
"This year, it was more about ... having fun as a nation without it being quite so heavy," says Yuki. "It's a little more of a reflection of what society wants and needs right now."