Hashtags continue to lose in this year’s Super Bowl

A white chalk drawing of a bird holding a hashtag, set against a green chalkboard backdrop.

The Atlanta Falcons weren’t the only losers in this year’s Super Bowl. According to a report, references to hashtags appeared in just 30% of Super Bowl 51’s commercials this year, down from 45% a year ago.

Marketing Land says that of the 66 national ads that appeared during the game, just 20 included a hashtag. Last year, hashtags were featured in 27 of 60 national commercials that aired during Super Bowl 50.

This year’s significant drop continues a general decline that began in 2015, when hashtags made an appearance in half of Super Bowl commercials. By Marketing Land’s count, hashtag usage peaked in 2014, when 57% of commercials included one.

Super Bowl advertisers who promoted hashtags in their commercials this year included Skittles (#TasteTheRainbow), AirBnB (#weaccept), T-Mobile (#UnlimitedMovies and #TheSafeWordisUnlimited ), Audi (#DriveProgress) and Sprite (#WannaSprite).

Of the advertisers that promoted their social media accounts, five promoted Twitter, and four each promoted Facebook and Instagram. Percentage-wise, Twitter and Facebook registered relatively small gains year-over-year. This was the first year Marketing Land tracked Instagram mentions.

URLs make a comeback

26 of the Super Bowl 51 commercials, or 39%, featured URLs. This is an increase from last year, when 21 commercials, or 35%, sought to drive viewers to a brand website. Thanks to the decline of the hashtag this year, URLs were featured in commercials more than hashtags for the first time since Marketing Land started tracking URL mentions in 2014.

The rise of URL usage isn’t so surprising. At more than $5 million apiece, it seems sensible that Super Bowl advertisers would eventually realize the wisdom in trying to drive viewers to their own websites. While hashtags are certainly mainstream today, everybody recognizes a URL.

Additionally, with so much social media noise, especially during the big game, it’s probably unrealistic for most Super Bowl advertisers to get a lot of “yardage” from their hashtags.

It’s also possible that the decline of the hashtag reflects the fact that advertisers are less keen on Twitter, which has seen its user growth in the United States stagnate at the expense of younger and faster-growing services like Snapchat. Although hashtags are used on Facebook and Instagram, they first rose to prominence on Twitter, where they’re still a staple.

Of course, while directing viewers to websites they own instead of social media services they don’t makes a lot of sense for advertisers spending millions, there are risks involved. Building materials supply company 84 Lumber learned this the hard way.

Its ad, which attracted lots of attention by wading into the immigration debate, promised Super Bowl viewers the ending to its commercial at a website located at journey84.com. Unfortunately for 84 Lumber, its website couldn’t handle the traffic and went down for 30 minutes after its ad aired.

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