Super Bowl Loses Laughs, Not A Good Sign

On any given Super Bowl Sunday, 100 million or so Americans will show up, regardless of how much they don’t care about the game. This Super Bowl LI (also known as 51) might be different. This year, NFL ratings are down in all age demos, and worst among the 18 to 34 year olds who, as is well known, are the only consumers there are.

Unruly, the ad tech firm that parses which commercials click and which ones don’t, and which ones are shared online, notes something else.

In a new report, it says sharing Super Bowl ads was down 17%  last season's game (to 7.84 million) from the season before, and since ads are now routinely exposed prior to the game--increasing the chances of sharing--that is not an encouraging sign for advertisers or the creatives who produce those ads.

Why didn’t people connect to the ads? Well, for one, people didn’t have a very jump-off-the-page emotional response to ads. But there’s more.  



Unruly’s analyzed 33 Super Bowl commercials, surveying 16,500 panelists using Unruly secret sauce algorithmic tool, fortified facial coding and Moodagent’s Listening Machine that also analyzed what people thought of the music in the commercials.  (Again, not good.)

According to Unruly, only 10% of those people thought Super Bowl  2016 ads were funny. Their feelings of happiness, inspiration and amazement also were lower than average.

For one ad that stood out, center stage was a mixed blessing. Mountain Dew Kickstart’s PuppyMonkeyBaby divided the room. Unruly said 58% of Millennials males had positive feelings about the brand after watching the ad. But overall, 22% of all other thinking humans felt more negative.

Because Mountain Dew is heavily/exclusively marketed to young guys, Mountain Dew probably was stoked by those numbers.

Even the old favorites, like Budweiser, struck out. Its Not Backing Down spot seemed to suggest, in a bully kind of way, that Budweiser is for real men (implying the craft beers that Budweiser’s parent has been buying up by the bushel are not). Unruly’s Science of Sharing facial reader said this ad got frowns all around.

On the lonely other side, Doritos Ultrasound commercial was judged really and truly funny---29% said it was “intensely funny.” And it was the most shared ad from last year’s Super Bowl.

Also, advertisers are spending time and effort to create “teaser” ads, which don’t move the needle. For last year’s game teasers made up 30% of the total, and just 10% of the shares.

Devra Prywes, Unruly’s SVP of marketing and research, singles out one commercial for a special commendation that seems to go beyond the charts. Steve Harvey’s commercial for T-Mobile, which played delightfully on the screw up he made hosting the Miss Universe contest and announcing the wrong winner, she calls “awesome on so many levels.” It became an instant meme. “A work of art,” she adds.

It seems, on the one hand, it’s a very good idea to make a funny ad. But on the other hand, most brands can’t do it. They fail. Funny is hard, and you’ve probably experienced the icky feeling you get when a comedian is bombing in a big room. Well, imagine that big room has 100 million people in it.

Prywes basically advises most brands: Don’t do it unless, possibly, Unruly helps you predict the measure of disaster you may have on your hands.

Brands sometimes test ads with people in their office, and think they’re getting a good reading because this time, they asked many people in the office. Guess what? People in the office can be unfunny types, or very likely, they may be certain that liking that expensive ad the boss loves is a cover-your-ass imperative.

Actually, Prywes says, the Super Bowl bunch is a tough crowd in the best of circumstances.

“It’s cold and dark outside and during the holidays, you may have had a hard time with family members,” she says. All that comes out in our attitudes toward advertising.  

But for the entire year, she notes while there were a lot of positive attitudes measured by U.S. viewers in 2016, “Hilarity was down 12%.”


2 comments about "Super Bowl Loses Laughs, Not A Good Sign".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, January 13, 2017 at 5:43 p.m.

    I'm definitely not an expert on comedy. (Need proof? ... read my other comments ... rimshot, smattering of groans)  

    But I do know that those who are good at it have to be good at reading the room.  Routines that work one night won't work the next. The same goes for years, and for Super Bowls during those years.  2016 was simply a bummer, across the board, for a lot of reasons.
    And many of those reasons weren't tragedies that might bring us together, all needing a laugh, but rather very divisive issues that stiffle a shared laugh.  

    So, in my opinion, if the 2016 SB ads had recognized and featured that divisiveness, and been clever about it, instead of going for the same-old-same-old, it could have been a great year.

    But I do take exception at the stats in the final sentence. Hilarity was not down 12%, ... she won the popular vote. 

    (LOUD groans)

  2. charles bachrach from BCCLTD, January 13, 2017 at 6:08 p.m.

    There are more commercials in the Super Bowl than game action...which in many cases is far
    better than the game itself.  Now if the networks could just get a couple of announcers who don't run off at the mouth  just for the sake of hearing themselves talk like Al Michaels.....we need more Chris Collingsworth's!!!!  

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