Every year, the NFL’s “big game” provides a huge opportunity for marketers and advertisers to help clients create ads and social campaigns around one of the biggest viewing spectacles of the year (or merely chime in to grade the ads as they air in real-time). Perhaps the only event of the year where more people watch for the commercials than the game itself, there was plenty of conversation around the ads, both positive and negative.

As years go on, our expectations steadily increase in what we expect to see of the commercials. After last year’s #DownerBowl, viewers were relieved to see brands taking a more relaxed and humorous approach to their ads, but many felt much was left to be desired overall. Depending on the source, Hyundai, Budweiser or Doritos were the winners for conversation driven from their ads.

At about $5M per 30-second spot, there were a total of 95 ads during the game. Overall, 3.2B impressions were generated from ads at the time of publishing (Source: Postano). According to USA Today’s Ad Meter, Hyundai took the top spot, followed closely by Snickers and Mt. Dew. Ad preferences also saw variance geographically, where USA Today reported each state’s favorite ad:

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We’ve seen the ads, we’ve tweeted the tweets. Here are this year’s MVPs of advertising.

Social Piggy-Back

As Oreo taught us in 2013, there is invaluable opportunity in real-time social engagement from brands. This also provides huge opportunity for brands who didn’t shell out millions for their own TV spot. With 75 percent of ads released online in the weeks prior to the big game, brands have more opportunity to piggy-back on anticipated ads that are likely to drive social conversation.

MVP: California Avocados

@CA_Avocados on Twitter shook things up with its hashtag #BigGameAdd, where the brand added itself to others’ ads. It interacted with brands as their TV spot aired, showing how they’ve added themselves to the equation:

California Avocados’ efforts were also supported through promoted tweets and sponsored posts on Facebook.

Honorable Mention: Pabst Blue Ribbon 

As beer ads aired with new spokespersons like Seth Rogan and TJ Miller, the not-to-be-forgotten brand decided to remind everyone where the celebs’ loyalties lie:

PBR also took a more serious note with the airing of Budweiser’s #GiveADamn ad, showing support for an issue everyone can get behind:

Humor

MVP: Bud Light Party

Comedic favorites Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan were a hit across the board with a spot that poked fun at politics and offered what everyone missed from last year’s ads: a laugh. And they were right about one thing, everyone loves Paul Rudd.

Honorable Mention: Shock Top

A quick-witted back-and-forth between TJ Miller and the Shock Top orange, we got funny one-liners like, “You look like you’re on a cleanse that doesn’t work,” and “Do you consider fresh-squeezed orange juice murder?” but what made the effort worth mentioning was the hilarious follow-up online with TJ and the orange’s “Unfiltered Big Game Ad Review.”

Best Use of Dogs

Unlike years past, everyone’s favorite furry friends didn’t make it into nearly as many spots this year. Even Budweiser ditched its BFF ads of two years past, showing the friendship between pup and Clydesdale.

MVP: Heinz

It’s no wonder everyone cheered for Heinz and its stampede of weiner dogs. Hearts everywhere melted as the brand introduced its larger campaign, #MeetTheKetchups, and fans especially loved the kid-sized ketchup packet. Heinz Ketchup followed up on Twitter by encouraging fans of the ad to vote for it as the best ad.

Honorable Mention: Doritos Doggies

The first Doritos ad met mixed reactions of hilarity and horror, but everyone seemed to agree when the puppies got involved. Doritos continued the conversation online by using its own assets to create additional social content relevant to the game:

Brand Relevant

MVP: Pantene 

Although it aired only in select markets, Pantene took the cake for making its brand relevant to the NFL. Featuring players from the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New Orleans Saints, Pantene introduced the #DadDo, an extension of its Strong Is Beautiful campaign. The approach the brand took is Dove’s Real Beauty meets Always #LikeAGirl, tying in “Girls who spend quality time with their dads grow up to be stronger women.” The campaign was promoted on Facebook and Twitter in the days leading up to the big game, and drove viewers to a YouTube playlist that automatically cycled through the various snackable videos.

Pantene was the clear winner for taking an unnatural connection between football and women’s hair products, and making its brand relevant for the event.

Knowing Your Audience

Something advertisers are constantly asking and analyzing is, “who is our audience?” There were some standout ads that weren’t necessarily a crowd favorite across the board, but hit the sweet spot with their target audience.

MVP: Mt. Dew

Whether you were horrified or doubled up in laughter, Amobee reports that Mountain Dew Kickstart’s PuppyMonkeyBaby drove 31,365 tweets before halftime. Despite the majority of those tweets being negative, where the Mountain Dew audience went was YouTube. Released four days prior to the big game, by halftime the ad had seen upwards of 7 million views, now currently sitting at just less than 10M views. Whether it was a “what WAS that” question that drove the action, it was the clear winner for driving an online engagement post-air.

Honorable Mention: Jeep 

Celebrating 75 years, Jeep stood out amongst a sea of car commercials with its poignant representation of its audience, history, and heritage. Showing the varied and diverse group of those who make up the brand’s consumer, Jeep highlighted its humble beginnings and showcased the ever-growing variety of uses for the everyday American. The spot touted “We don’t make Jeep, you do,” a hook on making fans feel included. The campaign is translated to the brand’s social pages, as well.

Honorable Mention: Budweiser Clydesdales

The Budweiser Clydesdales are a time-honored tradition to the Super Bowl, and this year took a new direction by focusing on the company’s history and heritage, which many have also called a snub to craft beers. Bud focused on its past by talking about how it has been around for years, and isn’t going anywhere. Budweiser also created social assets to continue the conversation with fans on Twitter.

Local Ad

As you may have noticed, local ads aired in a variety of markets showcasing a variety of local businesses and news networks. Some felt forced and didn’t hold a candle to the highly produced ads you’d been seeing for the rest of the game, but there was definitely one standout for the local market of Kansas City.

MVP: Sporting KC

Sporting KC teased the premiere of its new secondary kit on social leading up to Sunday’s event and took the cake for best local ad, hitting the sweet spot by paying homage to the fans that have made the club who they are.

Off-Air

MVP: Gatorade Snapchat Filter

The time-honored mark of sports success is the Gatorade bath. Taking advantage of animated Snapchat selfie filters, Gatorade made it come to life for anyone with a mobile phone. The brand announced the filter through celebrity endorsement Serena Williams.

Social Purpose or Cause

MVP: Colgate

Taking the spotlight off itself, Colgate effectively highlighted an issue and offered a solution. Taking something most people do (leaving the water on while brushing your teeth), Colgate put it into perspective by telling you how much water you’re wasting, and how many people around the world don’t get that much water in a week. Launching the campaign #EveryDropCounts, the brand also drove traffic to its microsite, where it asked you to pledge to save water. Like many brands did, Colgate continued the conversation on Twitter, encouraging people to learn more.

Honorable Mention: Budweiser and Helen Mirren

Although receiving overwhelmingly positive response, the Budweiser #GiveADamn ad may have slightly missed its mark. If you think about the typical Budweiser drinker, ask yourself how many of those people know who Helen Mirren is. Did the brand really reach its target audience with this ad? Although brilliant as she is, Helen Mirren didn’t convince me that she likes or actually drinks Budweiser. Where this ad delivered was the message and awareness an alcohol brand brings to drunk driving. Another way it could’ve been better was to tell the viewers how to #GiveADamn, or telling them how to make a difference. The campaign crossed over onto Twitter, where the message extends to “#GiveADamn and make a plan,” suggesting the best way to prevent drunk driving is to have a plan with your friends on how to safely get home.

Best Use of Celebrity

MVP: Hyundai with Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds

In an effort to shift brand perceptions, Hyundai enlisted Kevin Hart in a funny ad early in the game that garnered positive reactions on Twitter. Where Hyundai may have hit its sweet spot with men in the Kevin Hart ad, the car company hit it with women in its Ryanville spot, featuring a town where Ryan Reynolds is every man. The two ads landed in first and fifth on the USA Today Ad Meter, respectively.

Honorable Mention: T-Mobile with Drake

Taking advantage of an opportunity to make fun of themselves, Drake teamed up with T-Mobile to mock the cell phone industry using Drake’s hit, Hotline Bling.

Real-Time Relevance

MVP: T-Mobile with Steve Harvey

T-Mobile quickly turned around an ad mimicking a recent Verizon ad, where it claimed to provide the nation’s best service. Tying that to the recent Steve Harvey blunder at the Miss Universe pageant, it cleverly turned out #Ballogize:

Following that up, the brand brilliantly responded to Verizon’s claims of having the best coverage at the big game using its CEO, John Legere, to challenge the call:

#Fail

Don’t Come Back Next Year: Pharmaceutical Ads 

The overwhelming negative conversation surrounded the four pharmaceutical ads, which included spots for Valeant’s Xifaxan, AstraZeneca, and Jublia. Although years past have included many pharma spots, including those for erectile dysfunction, this is an ad type that viewers wish would sit on the bench.

We’ll Give You A Second Chance: Pepsi Halftime Tribute

During the Pepsi Halftime show, in honor of the Super Bowl’s 50th anniversary, the brand aired a montage of past halftime show performances. Although it included a snippet from Katy Perry’s performance last year, the most-talked about member of the performance was strangely missing. Where was Left Shark? Fans quickly tweeted their outrage, and as if they could hear me yelling at my TV, (“Where’s Left Shark!?”), the brand quickly released a well-deserved apology that makes us want to give them a second chance:

What did you think of this year’s ads? Which ones were your favorites?

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