4 Takeaways From The Super Bowl 51 Ads

This year’s Super Bowl 51 telecast included more than 5 dozen ads, priced at or slightly above $5 million for 30 seconds. Here are my takeaways from the ads.

Social themes generated social media activity.
Some of the most-talked about Super Bowl 51 ads shared a theme of multiculturalism. 84 Lumber’s first-ever Super Bowl ad was deemed by Fox too controversial to air in its original form. The company decided to air an edited version of the ad which directed viewers to see its conclusion online. The site hosting the video was rendered useless by the surge in traffic, prompting the company to advise social media users to instead watch the ad on the company’s YouTube channel. Immigration was not the only social issue featured Sunday evening as Audi’s “Daughters” spot brought gender equality to the forefront. Analytics reveal these spots were conversation starters, eliciting both praise and opposition.

Going old school proves the best chaos is planned chaos.
Full-length live commercials remind me of old-time advertising. Snickers took a unique approach by choosing to air a live spot early in the 3rd quarter. The company posted a teaser video in the days leading up to the game, but included a halftime score reference to prove the ad was indeed live. The spot starred Adam Driver and seemed to go wrong from the beginning. But, that was the intent. A subsequent :15 spot posted on social media featured Driver apologizing for the mishap but that, too, went awry. Snickers positioned the planned snafu as an extension of the company’s long-running “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign. The apology post also included a buy one, get one free offer.

Advertisers didn’t try to engage digitally.
Ads in this year’s Super Bowl also placed less emphasis on advertisers’ digital properties and social media than in previous years. Research from Marketing Land reveals only 30% of Super Bowl 51 ads included a hashtag. That’s down 45% from last year and down from peak hashtag usage of 57% in 2014. 39% of this year’s ads included a URL, up from 35% one year ago. Mentions of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram each were included in less than 10% of ads. T-Mobile was the only advertiser to include a URL, hashtag, and social network mentions.

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Screenshot from YouTube

Off the field, winning can be defined in many ways.
So, what was the best ad of Super Bowl 51? According to the USA Today Ad Meter, it was Kia’s “Hero’s Journey” spot starring Melissa McCarthy. Ad industry executives awarded the Super Clio Award to National Geographic’s “Bad Romance” spot promoting its upcoming “Einstein” series. iSpot.tv reports Netflix’s “Stranger Things Season Two: 1984” was the most digitally engaged spot on game day, while Budweiser’s “Born The Hard Way” ending up as the most digitally engaged spot overall. Meanwhile, my favorite was Bai’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” 2nd quarter spot featuring Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake.

The Super Bowl 51 ads will continue to be analyzed by advertisers and their agencies in hopes of discovering effective takeaways for future campaigns. It will be interesting to see how brands respond when producing ads for next year’s game.

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