January 15th, 2015

The Most Valuable Players: Top & Bottom Ads of Each Super Bowl


Ace Metrix


The countdown has begun. In less than three weeks, we’ll see some of the world’s largest brands, and a few bright newcomers, take advertising’s largest stage with what people expect to be exceptional ads. We’ll be there too, watching with great anticipation over which ads will rise to the top and which will fall to the bottom. Every advertiser is shooting for the stars, but like the game which is played between the goal posts, there will be players that earn a reason to celebrate and those that wonder if they could have done something differently. We’ve been watching and gathering consumer responses to every national television ad, including those that debut during the Super Bowl, since 2010. Here we share some observations of each of the five years and share which brands have taken seats at the top and which have occupied space at the bottom. Keep in mind that every ad has a deeper data story than what we are able to share on our blog. If you’re interested in knowing more, contact us and keep an eye out for the post-game webinar where we’ll share some historical insights along with fresh insights on this years ads.

High – Low

For four of the five years represented here, Doritos grabbed two of the top five highest scoring spots slipping its position in 2014 due to some stiff competition- emotionally speaking. Likewise, GoDaddy claimed at least one but regularly two spots on the bottom five list four of the five years.

2014: The Year of Playing it Safe and Social

For the most part, advertisers seem to have taken heed that isolating one half or the other of your audience with highly targeted, crass or chauvinistic ads is at best a waste of money and at worst damaging. In fact fewer advertisers attempted humor than in previous years; 64% of ads were funny versus 72% in 2013. Yet those that went for a laugh earned the highest marks from consumers than the previous four years. The 2014 Game ads earned an average Ace Score of 574 as compared to the 555 of 2013 and 554 of the five-year average. More on the funny ads of Super Bowl XLVIII >

Perhaps in lieu of risk taking, advertisers focused on social engagement. Expanding advertising’s largest stage beyond whistle to whistle is not a new concept. But each year the creativity and direct consumer involvement has certainly increased. Last year, 11 percent of advertisers incorporated a blatant use of fan participation in conjunction with their air-time exposure, versus 7 percent or less in previous years. And we expect that number to rise more dramatically this year. Bud Light, Carnival Cruises, Doritos, Lincoln, and Jaguar as well as newcomer brands Avocados from Mexico, Dove and Locktite have already published their fan-plans and if history is any indication we can expect to see others fall in line.

Microsoft and Budweiser earned top scores for their long form ads, all three delivering emotionally powerful pieces. Hyundai landed the third highest spot and the top automotive ad for the game with a humorous yet highly informative piece for the Hyundai Genesis. RadioShack used the big game platform to launch its brand and store refresh leveraging an 80’s cast of characters to poke fun at its stale reputation.

At the bottom, we find Carmax who attempted to recreate the familiar “Slow Clap” scene of so many movies but instead left viewers bored and confused. Had Carmax chosen to air their “Slow Bark” version (similarly slow and confusing, but with attention grabbing pooches), they would have avoided the bottom and given viewers something more memorable to chat about around water cooler on Monday morning. GoDaddy hasn’t yet given up their place and the low scoring table, regardless of their more recent, less polarizing creative approaches. GoDaddy is the only brand to appear on 4 of the 5 bottoms lists.

> See the entire Super Bowl 48 List

2013:  The Year of Leaks

Super Bowl 47 marked a significant awakening for advertisers. Gone are the days of throwing all of your eggs into a single Super Bowl basket. In 2013, 50 percent of all advertising brands issued a teaser ad either online or on television in the weeks leading up to the game. Forty-six percent actually released their game day ad early – a stark contrast to the prior years where the big reveal was considered best practice. Last year, however, leaked ads remained about even at 45 percent, however teasers dropped to 38 percent.

Budweiser reclaimed a top tier spot in the 47th Game with the return of the Clydesdale in a featured role. The Got Milk campaign crashed the Soda and Beer drenched stage, tapping “The Rock” to star in this entertaining spot. Coca-Cola’s Security Camera was one of several emotionally charged anthem spots that first debuted during the Summer Olympics of 2012. Doritos earned its third consecutive seat at the winners table proving again that fan selected and crowd sourced content is a recipe for success (when paired with great creative advisors). Mercedes earns its seat with a star-studded spot that introduced the new, more affordable luxury vehicle.

At the bottom we see both of the GoDaddy spots once again, this time splitting their creative approach between a comical, demographically impartial spot that better attempts to connect the message with the product, and another shock spot that tops the charts on ‘gross’ factor.

> See the entire Super Bowl 47 List

2012: The Year of American Stories

It was Super Bowl 46 where more advertisers decided that while :30 was costly, :60 or longer was better and what better stage to tell your story than the Super Bowl, many of those with a strong patriotic pull – whether a call to arms or tribute. It’s here that we saw Clint Eastwood’s 2:00 “It’s Halftime in America”, and a :45 GE ad about “Building Something Big in Louisville and Budweisers.  and a :75 Volkswagen sequel to “the Force,” a :90 demonstration by Samsung (starring the Flaming Lips) and Budweiser’s many :60 spots, two of which harkened back to either prohibition. One third of the ads were more than :30 versus an average of 22% in the previous two years.

Soda and snacks rule the 2012 game with Doritos and M&M’s tying for the number one spot earning outrageous Attention and Likeability components with incredibly entertaining ads. Coca-Cola prepared a set of ads to air that were dependent on the current score of the game, creating a real-time feel and connection with consumers.

At the bottom we see the common theme of beer brand ads that are polarizing by nature of not appealing to a large percentage of Americans. H&M took a double creative risk featuring David Beckham and having him nearly naked in an attempt to promote a new line of men’s underwear (not surprisingly appealing more strongly to women).

> See all Super Bowl 46 ads

2011: The Year of Pepsi

It’s a well known rivalry that plays out each year – Coke versus Pepsi. Our loyalties to our soda provider likely pre-disposes us to route for one or the other. These advertisers don’t disappoint their fans each year attempting to out-do the pulling out all the stops in terms of scale, celebrity, patriotism, sentimentality, and just plain innovative creative. 2011 is the only chart however, where you will see Pepsi has risen to the top versus Coca-Cola’s 2013 and 2012 elite performances. In fact, despite the fact that Pepsi, across all five years has earned an average Ace Score of 602 compared to Coca-Cola’s 592, 2011 is the only year in which Pepsi’s ads outscored Coke’s. How is that? Because these two ads were exceptional. In addition to earning Attention and Likeability well into the 700s, these two are the highest scoring ads in terms of Change for either brand.


2010: The Least Sexy Super Bowl

As I discussed in a previous post, the scores certainly don’t support the age old adage “sex sells”. Consumers continuously score ads with a sexual theme lower than those without. And yet, each year the number of ads attempting to allure us (men or women, but generally not both at the same time), increases. In 2010, only three ads used hot guy or gal to attract attention. Unsurprisingly, two of the three are buffering the bottom list.

Still, it was candies and snacks at the top with Doritos claiming the second and fourth highest positions with Snickers’ famous “You’re Not You” campaign featuring Bette White. Budweiser claimed the number one position with its “Fence” – one of its most memorable of Clydesdale ads. 2010 also was the launch of Google’s emotionally charged ads, the highest scoring ad from a Software & Websites advertiser across the five years (and third highest among all technology Super Bowl ads).



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