Last year, some of the best Super Bowl ads of 2015 put new plays in the marketer’s playbook. This year, it appears that many of those plays need to be totally rewritten.
3 Myths About Viral Super Bowl Ads
Myth 1: Animals, Babies, Or Dancing Make Videos Go Viral
Up until this year, dancing and animals didn’t appear to work any better than other creative devices at gaining higher rates of sharing. Babies did outperform most other creative devices, but only when the video evoked intense emotions. Of all possible creative devices, videos that displayed personal triumph appeared most likely to deliver sharing success.
Myth 2: Hilarious Videos Are Shared More Often
Humor is subjective. Brands need to be extremely funny to impress consumers worn down by a glut of ads that try to be funny (and usually are not). In fact, the “Budweiser Clydesdale’s “Brotherhood” Commercial” and the Ram Trucks “Farmer” Commercial, the two ads from Super Bowl 2013 that attracted the most shares on Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere, evoked a different set of emotional triggers from the rest.
Myth 3: Celebrity Endorsements Increase Sharing Potential
Few viewers cite celebrities as a key driver of why they would share an ad. None of the top 3 ads from Super Bowl 2014 featured celebrities. This is not just restricted to the Big Game. Up until August 2015, only 13 percent of the top 100 most shared ads of all time in Unruly’s Viral Video Chart featured stars.
So, What Happened During Super Bowl 50?
Naturally, we saw tons of Big Game ads that featured animals, babies, or dancing; a plethora of Super Bowl ads that were – or tried to be – funny; and more celebrities than you could shake a stick at. So, I interviewed Devra Prywes, Unruly’s VP of Marketing and Insights in the U.S., to see what brands can learn about making the most of their Super Bowl moments.
You’ve been following social video ads during the Big Game for several years. What was the biggest surprise for you in this year’s list the most shared ad of Super Bowl 2016?
I had high hopes for the ads this year after the sharing records from the 2015 Big Game. We saw a winning year last year because advertisers hit hard on the emotional intensity of their spots, spanning a gamut of emotions from happiness and hilarity to pride and nostalgia. This year the ads seemed “light” — they were, for the most part, light-hearted and light on emotional intensity. This is the second year the Facebook video format has been available for the Big Game and I was shocked to see that advertisers didn’t universally use both formats, especially as the Facebook format trends much more quickly than YouTube’s. This year Facebook video often had 4–5 times more shares, and some were 50x higher! I also was pleasantly pleased to seem T‑Mobile hopping on memes in a really authentic way. I loved seeing Steve Harvey and Drake parody their current memes (Harvey’s recent Miss America misstep and Drake’s hit song). T‑Mobile had 3 ads (including the 0:30 and extended version of “Restricted Bling”) in the top 10 most shared ad of Super Bowl 50.
Doritos announced some time ago that this was the last year for its “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. But, this year, “Ultrasound” topped Unruly’s chart. Should Doritos reconsider retiring “Crash the Super Bowl” or go out a winner?
That’s a decision for Doritos to make — they can definitely replicate this success without crowdsourcing the content. They topped the leaderboard this year because they hit the holy grail for video sharing – they made a strong emotional connection with viewers, triggered many social motivations (or reasons people share videos), and launched their ad in advance of the Big Game. The Crash the Super Bowl program helps to spread the word as the creative teams help to spread the word for their content, but this word can easily be spread with paid distribution.
Doritos and Pokémon released their ads well before Super Bowl Sunday, but many of the most shared ads came as a “surprise” during the Big Game. Is this the new new best practice? DP: No. Waiting to surprise viewers is a dangerous strategy. We see advertisers get burned by this year over year. T‑Mobile’s Steve Harvey and Verizon meme made it into the top 10 because it was an authentic use of a hot meme (and all-around awesome!). T‑Mobile captured multiple trends perfectly in a “mic-drop” moment. The top shared ad, by far, is Doritos’ “Ultrasound” which was an early launcher! And, the majority of “surprise” advertisers are in the bottom portion of our ad tracker.
We saw a lot of animals and kids in this year’s Super Bowl ads, including a PuppyMonkeyBaby. Is this the new new best practice?
For every animal and baby video that trends, there are hundreds that never see the light of day. Mountain Dew seems to have taken what people consider to be viral gold and created a (very creepy) mashup. The important takeaway for puppies, monkeys, babies and other cute beings is that it isn’t enough to have a baby or an animal in your video – it’s how that baby or animal makes you feel. If you have a strong emotional reaction, the content is highly likely to trend.
We also saw a lot of celebrities in this year’s Super Bowl ads, including Helen Mirren. Is this the new new best practice?
Celebrities are not a best practice for video sharing. Now brands may have many reasons for hiring celebrities for their ads, including hoping for a halo effect for the celebrity’s personal brand to rub off onto them. There were many celebrity ads this year, and video sharing was down more than a third compared to last year’s game. While Helen Mirren was spectacular in Budweiser’s PSA, the gaggle of celebrities did not help this year’s Big Game to go viral. Celebrities will definitely drive up the already high Super Bowl media budget – and should come with a caution label. They can amplify sharing in a strong ad but cannot salvage a weak ad. Celebrities can also be polarizing (think Kim Kardashian in T‑Mobile’s 2015 Big Game spot which had a share rate of less than 1 percent) and distracting (like Bob Dylan and Liam Neeson distracting viewers in the 2014 and 2015 Big Game spots for Chrysler and Clash of Clans respectively, delivering some of the lowest brand recall scores among Super Bowl ads).