Media Coverage

January 31st, 2020

Ad Age — Why Aren’t Super Bowl Ads Funny Anymore?

Ad Age — Why Aren’t Super Bowl Ads Funny Anymore?


Peter Daboll, Ace Metrix CEO

Ad Age

It’s not just you. Empirical data shows that Super Bowl ads are less funny than they used to be. Not only are they less funny, but there are fewer of them. What gives?

Sorry to say, it’s not the ad creative, it’s us. Society has become hyper-critical and brands are walking on eggshells, often playing it safe with risk-averse (and humor-averse) messages that can be bland and, well, forgettable.

When Super Bowl ads are analyzed for humor—using natural language processing and machine learning analysis of thousands of viewer verbatim comments—we find that, while more than 80 percent of Super Bowl ads contained humor in 2013, the number dropped to fewer than 60 percent in 2019. Moreover, the average “funny score” dropped significantly from 8 points (out of 10) to 6.

In the above chart, the average strength of signal for the Top 5 funniest ads from each Super Bowl is shown based on Ace Metrix’s Natural Language Processing-based Funny score. From 2010 to 2012, the funniest Super Bowl ads are some of the highest scoring Funny ads we’ve ever tested. For scale, those scores (averaged out) land them in the top 0.8% of all ads on the Ace Metrix Funny metric. By 2019, they were on par with 7%.

Across the same time period, commercials aiming to be socially inspiring—based on a synthesis of the qualities in commercials that viewers see as empowering or exploitative—have been on the rise. In years prior to 2015, fewer than 5 percent of Super Bowl ads had a strong positive cultural impact message. Now it’s greater than 15 percent.

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