Digital MarketingStrategies3 Things We Learned From This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

3 Things We Learned From This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

Some of the big game's big ads tried to be inspirational, some focused on doom and gloom, and some used digital interactivity to bring the commercials beyond television.

Every year, before the Super Bowl has even come to a close, ad analysts start to dissect the offerings in search of failures, successes, and trends. There are lessons to be learned from every campaign. Trends emerge, regarding both how TV spots are extended online and how consumers respond to them. According to social media intelligence platform Infegy, consumer sentiment toward this year’s ads overall was 60 percent positive. What else did the priciest ads of 2015 teach us? Let’s take a look.

1. Inspirational Messaging Generates Social Chatter

When it comes to format and theme, most Super Bowl ads can be sorted into one of a handful of buckets (a comic recently published by Contently expresses this well). One theme that proved fashionable this year was messaging that inspired.

Early on in the game, Toyota appeared with the first of the inspirational ads, a story that showcased Paralympic athlete, Dancing With the Stars contestant, and motivational speaker Amy Purdy. “How Great Am I” followed Purdy through one impressive accomplishment after another to a rousing monologue by Muhammad Ali, all in an effort to promote “The Bold New Camry.”

Online, the #OneBoldChoice hashtag linked the spot to Toyota’s second Super Bowl ad, a touching look at a supportive dad. Prior to and during the game the brand encouraged Twitter users to tweet pictures of “bold and fearless dads” like the one featured in its ad.

Always #LikeAGirl, another inspirational ad that hoped to redefine female stereotypes and change perceptions of female confidence, struck a chord with viewers, too. Tweeting related photos and tag lines (“tonight’s a game changer,” “Score #LikeAGirl”), Always caught the attention of celebrities like Demi Lovato and Sophia Bush to generate loads of positive chatter. According to reports, the campaign resulted in 337,000 tweets about the spot and 270,000 hashtag mentions in 24 hours.

2. Doom and Gloom Is Better Left Untouched

Strangely, several ads took an opposing tack, Nationwide and Nissan among them. Both brands told heartbreaking stories, Nationwide of accidental deaths among children and Nissan about an absent father. While the commercials’ teachings were important, their inclusion in such an upbeat event was off. Super Bowl viewers expect to be entertained by brands during the game, and doom and gloom messaging in that environment isn’t likely to be well received.

Indeed, as was reported before the game had come to a close, consumer sentiment about the Nationwide ad was dismally low. The brand came off as a “buzz kill,” remembered for a theme consumers would rather forget. Data from Amobee Brand Intelligence recorded more than 238,000 social media mentions involving Nationwide. Only 12 percent of them were deemed positive.

In a subsequent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Nationwide confessed that its intent was not to sell insurance but to “raise awareness of a cause that we’ve been championing for decades…which is to keep kids safe from preventable accidental injuries.” Time will tell whether consumers who watched the spot come around to appreciate the company’s efforts.

3. Digital Interactivity Takes Ads Beyond TV

On Super Bowl Sunday Coca-Cola brought viewers a recipe for a happier Internet with its #MakeItHappy ad. The concept of turning negative posts, texts, and tweets born of bullies and trolls into something positive was appealing, but perhaps better still was Coke’s supplementary creative at

The brand encouraged consumers to add the #MakeItHappy hashtag, which trended throughout the Super Bowl, to negative tweets in exchange for the chance to see the messages transformed into an image designed to spread happiness online. It also asked consumers to “sign” a Smile Petition by sharing a photo of their smiling faces, and offered up a music video featuring such artists as Victoria Justice and Jordin Sparks.

The interactivity of the digital campaign paid off: within 24 hours of the Super Bowl the Make It Happy site had received more than 485,000 “Happy Uploads.”

In its second annual Digital Bowl report, which analyzes Super Bowl advertisers to see how they faired at related social media, SEO, paid search, display, and email, digital marketing agency Merkle/RKG gave Coca-Cola top points for content. It suggested, however, that the brand might have trouble sustaining the excitement on social media in the weeks to come.


Meanwhile, McDonald’s tried to make the Internet happier by leveraging Twitter. The brand gave away the chance to win every product advertised in exchange for retweets during the game. In line with its current “Pay With Lovin'” promotion, which allows customers to trade food for expressions of love and joy, the strategy resulted in almost 200,000 more interactions on Twitter than Always – the brand closest to matching it – received during the game.

The beauty of gaining valuable insight into Big Game content is that brands not involved in the event can apply it to forthcoming campaigns. Here’s hoping these findings prove to be a useful addition to your digital playbook.


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