The Ads of Super Bowl 50 – Who scored and who fumbled?

On Sunday night in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, giants clashed with each other to be named champion of Super Bowl 50. No I’m not talking about the Panthers and the Broncos but rather the brands that vied to be crowned the winner in what is the biggest event in the adverting calendar. With this year’s 30 second spots going for between $4.6 million and just over $5 million according to media buyers and an estimated 114 million-plus viewers during the Big Game.

Despite some changes in audiences viewing habits, the trending increase of 11.1% each year for the asking price for a 30 second ad spot and fluctuating marketing budgets over the last couple of years, the Super Bowl remains the primary annual showcase for advertisers and marketers. Adverts that succeed can result in huge gains for the companies behind them, whilst those that fail to gain audience’s attention or praise can damage a brands reputation as well as be damaging financially. It’s an environment that means many companies go with a possible two plays. Either they look to take a risk in exchange for the possible future reward or instead play a bit safe.

On Monday morning Unruly released their data for the top 10 viral ads from the telecast, with the combined list being shared online almost 2.9 million times. This was a worrying 36% decrease from last year’s figures, which generated nearly 4.5 million online shares by the same point in 2015. This was despite at least as many brands pre-releasing their ads online before the game, a recent move by brands to increase the social sharing and excitement online.

So who did well this Super Bowl weekend? And who dropped the ball and should probably have a think again before Super Bowl 51?

The Winners

5) Heinz

This 30 second feature by Agency David Miami for Heinz featured a stampede of “wiener” dogs and drew 4.2 million organic views and captured 9% of the online activity. Heinz released two versions of the ad and its infectious adorability and fun clearly made it a big winner amongst audiences. Check it below to check it out in all it cuteness.

4) Audi/ Budweiser

Audi’s spot featuring the late David Bowie’s Star Man was definitely boosted by the recent departure of the thin white duke but it proved a potent match of direction, pacing and soundtrack that lifted this spot far above other car ads which seemed to crowd this year’s event. A truly cosmic effort from Agency Venables Bell & Partners.

It would also be unfair to not recognise the king of Super Bowl ads, Budweiser who after three straight years of its ads being the most shared online settled for third place with “Give a Damn” featuring actress Helen Mirren and by created by Anomaly. Receiving in total 301,317 online social shares according to Unruly.

Those who were disappointed with the lack of Budweiser’s puppies making an appearance would have been pleased to see the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales appear in Bud’s second spot, which looked to have a dig at the increased consumption of craft beer.

3) T-mobile

T-Mobile placed two spots this Super Bowl, the first featuring Drake was released pre-game and generated significant excitement online on social media before and during the game.Of the myriad of celebrities featured in the Super Bowl 50 ads, Drakes performance was probably the best, he quite happily accepts to perform several self-deprecating comical revisions of his hit “Hotline Bling” from a rival mobile carrier to great effect. The humour is well enforced by the seasoned commercial actors, Brian Huskey and Jerry Lambert that help elevate this ad as one of the funniest spots from Super Bowl 50.

 2) Hyndai

Hyundai also attracted its fair share of attention before the game with its First Date pre-game spot with Kevin Hart, created by the Agency Innocean Worldwide it attracted roughly 9.6 million organic online views and about 12 percent of the online activity and was the sixth most shared ad overall.

The momentum gathered by the pre-game ad made it difficult for Hyundai’s game time spot to catch up. “Ryanville” created by Innocean USA featured a town populated solely by the Canadian actor, much to the delight of the two women who drive through this idyllic suburb in their new Hyundai Elantra, showing off its advanced safety features such as the automatic emergency braking to avoid running the actor down whilst being distracted by his other incarnations.

All in all it’s a nice little ad that gained some attention online but seemed to struggle as the follow up spot from the pre-game ads.

1) Doritos

This year Doritos spot “Ultrasound” took the top spot crown and was shared vastly more than any other ad this year, receiving roughly 893,465 social shares making it by far the most shared ad of event. The ad, which features a pregnant woman having an ultrasound while her husband eats a bag of Doritos, gained a lot of online attention on social media prompting its huge number of shares.

Highly recommended

Avocados from Mexico

Super Bowl 49 last year saw the largest number of first time advertisers since the dot com bubble burst, with a total of 15 first-time advertisers. Avocados from Mexico, one of those fresh wave of newcomers returned this year with a 30 second spot featuring a small cameo form Happy Days actor Scott Baio. Create by GSD&M it a humorous ad featuring an alien museum of Earth’s history. With one of the exhibits being “the white and gold dress that caused a civil war, a nice nod to the social media uproar from 2015. It’s a nice little spot with an absurd premise, a celebrity cameo and some snappy one-liners, all the features that mad last year’s ad spot “First Draft Ever” a hit and it’s great to see these smaller advertisers return with this great spots.


Coming in quieter than other spots this Super Bowl, “Portraits” the 60 second spot from Jeep created by iris New York showed that sometimes it’s better to go quieter amid the noise of the Super Bowl. The ad stiches together more than 60 photos that tell Jeep’s history and the part its driver played in it. It was played during the halftime break, a slot that has been used well before by other quieter spots to juxtapose away from the noise of recent Super Bowls. It’s a great example of how well-crafted, emotive and thoughtful advertising can make a genuine impression on viewers.

The Losers

Pharmaceutical ads

It was a bad year for Pharma ads which all seemed to jar with viewers. The first Xifaxan, an anti-diarrhea medication, featured a small-intestines mascot trying to watch a football game. The second, AstraZeneca, looked to raise awareness of “opioid induced constipation” and featured a man watching a dog making a bowel movement and considering a sign for prune juice. With the third Jublia, advertising it’s self as a prevention for toe fungus. Sadly these ads suffered from simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being about a subject most viewers didn’t want to think about when tucking into half-time snacks.

The jury’s still out

Mountain Dew

This 30 second spot for Mountain Dew Kickstart has to really be seen to be believed. Check out the advert below to see it for yourself, don’t blame me if you get nightmares.

Now it’s unsure what was consumed by the team at BBDO New York to imagine this bizarre ad and what exactly the point was but it did do remarkably well. The ad featuring a creature that was part puppy, part monkey and part baby was either loved or reviled by viewers, however it was one of the most talked about spots of the evening, making the top 10 list for social sharing.

One response to puppymonkeybaby

All in all it was a great showcase by the brands on show and for some it was a great chance for advertisers to dust off old play books and try something different. Some long time Super Bowl advertisers did choose to move away from the traditional TV appearance and chose instead to place targeted ads online and on social media. With GoDaddy, a stalwart Super Bowl advertiser, choosing instead to release a 30 second ad during the online live stream of the game on We will have to see in the future whether this will become more common place as brands move away from the traditional TV spot to other media. The worrying drop in online sharing and social media may prompt some brands to look to follow in there example to ensure they maximise their ad returns for next year. Whatever happens as long as there is a Super Bowl there will still be a place for the Super Bowl ads and people willing to watch them, talk about them and write lists about their favourites. Roll on Super Bowl 51.

P.S – Oh and in case anyone was wondering the Broncos won.

He’s still got it

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