Bad News For Celebrities In Super Bowl Ads: No One Cares

You’d think great big marketing companies would be hip to all of this, but Unruly, the marketing technology company that has carved a niche for itself as experts analyzing and predicting video shares, released new data today about a real Super Bowl crisis.

Advertisers are screwing up at the Super Bowl.

Unruly doesn’t put it like that but it does point out some pretty basic mistakes advertisers made this year that have led to comparatively nobody sharing their favorite Super Bowl ads online. Here’s why:  

1)    Celebrities don’t necessarily mean much toward getting an ad shared.

2)    And using the Super Bowl platform to premiere a spectacular ad doesn’t work all by itself. An advertiser has to debut the ad, or some version of it, days ahead of the big game. (Unruly President Richard Kosinski suggested at an Interactive Advertising Bureau luncheon that Wednesday is the best day to premiere advertising, at least from a sharing perspective.)

Those are the broad strokes in the study. Now a little detail.

Despite the idea that most-shared-ads first show up connected to big TV events, only six Super Bowl ads, one during the Olympics and one during the World Cup are among top 50 shared ads of all time, as tabulated on the Unruly Viral Video Chart.

But it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Those ads are competing against a football game and other high-profile ads and there’s immense competition. (That makes sense to me. Likewise, broadcast networks insist on fall premieres for new shows but invariably, most of the hits grow out of mid-season replacements.)

What’s more this year, for the first time, sharing of ads from the Super Bowl declined over the year before for the first time ever, by 29%  (though for the year, overall sharing continues to uptick, by 22%).  

In part, as readers noted when I first wrote about this in April, that was because it was a dog-awful football game and millions of viewers were deep into other actually interesting things by the time some of the snappiest ads appeared in the third and fourth quarters.

 Now, to celebrity endorsers: The very idea seems to be kind of an old school, except for jocks drinking Gatorade or models covering up imperfections, it seems to me. And apparently, consumers aren’t seduced by big names like they once might have been.

 This year, during the Super Bowl, Chrysler used Bob Dylan, poet (and alas, pitchman) for a generation in its two minute long bomb.  But Unruly research says, most people—an astonishing 93% -- didn’t realize it was an ad for Chrysler. Among the things they did think it was a commercial for included Ford (I can’t figure) or an ad touting Detroit’s civic comeback.

 Alternative problems I’ve thought of: Viewers were too busy laughing at the ad’s very first line: “Is there anything more American than America?” 

And also, I think Chrysler might have also re-thought using Bob Dylan. He’s not a Chrysler kind of guy, not even a car kind of guy. He’s not a football kind of guy. He’s a guy “walkin’ down the road.” And when he was on Highway 61, there’s pretty good evidence he was involved with a Buick 6.

And really, this celeb thing. Remember, Stephen Colbert as a pistachio? I remember it. I would never ever share it.  During Kosinski’s IAB talk this week, I recalled that ad when he said 50% of all videos have less than 1,000 views online.   

 Finally, Unruly uses Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad to make its point about premiering an ad before the Super Bowl itself. Its “Empowering” spot didn’t show up until the game itself, and Unruly says, was “intrinsically shareable” as the most shared spot, for Budweiser’s “Puppy Love.”  But “Empowering” only got shared 80,000 times. Budweiser’s puppy-and-horsie love story was shared two million times. The Bud ad also premiered on Jan. 29, days before the game itself.

In a press release accompanying this latest white paper, Unruly’s Kosinski notes, ““For brands, it's no longer just about their TV ads being watched on Super Bowl Sunday. With more than 24 million shares tracked every 24 hours, the real opportunity for marketers is to connect their paid TV sponsorship with their paid media online, where their ads can be watched and shared before, during and way after the Big Game.”

Unruly says the big emotional triggers for popular ads this year were “warmth” and “happiness.” Re: Budweiser. Warm. Puppy. Happiness. Puppy. Not so good this year (or ever) is humor if it doesn’t work, and it usually doesn’t. Unruly advises hilarity only. Viewers are a tough crowd.
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