Which Super Bowl 50 Ads Worked on Social Media (And Which Ones Didn’t)

By Jeff Barrett

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The work week after the Super Bowl has long been reserved for discussing the best and worst commercials of the night. But that’s only part of it. You don’t need a commercial to win the internet and advertisers continue to get creative. Rather than judging the best ad, let’s look at who created the most impact online.

Last year we were left discussing a dead Nationwide kid and a shark that couldn’t dance but stole America’s heart. So, what was memorable about 2016?

The most successful advertisement online wasn’t even a Super Bowl commercial. As usual, Budweiser had some of the most memorable commercials of the night, this year’s hottest new pet is a Puppymonkeybaby and the unofficial mascot of the night was a lovable lower intestine. Rumors are the Xifaxan mascot already has a show in development.

Social media is the water cooler now, in real-time. We crave the weird, the absurd, and the unexpected. Advertisers take notice. It’s not what you do in 30 seconds that matters, it’s the conversation and commerce you create beyond those 30 seconds.

What worked

Esurance was the most mentioned brand during the Super Bowl, by far. #Esurancesweepstakes, which asked people to tweet for a chance to win $1 million, was well over 2 million Tweets by Monday, according to data published in AdWeek. Pepsi, with the boost of a sponsored hashtag, generated only half a million tweets.

A 30 second Super Bowl commercial cost $5 million this year. Esurance, which launched their contest before the Super Bowl, lapped the field in exposure and spent only $1 million (plus the cost of a lower-priced, pre-game ad).

Budweiser’s Helen Mirren ad received the most views online. A shockingly simple message about a delicate topic was designed to spark discussion—and it did. InBev also got Peyton Manning to mention he was going to drink Budweiser after the game.

Constipation won big. If you look at USA Today’s Ad Meter, drug commercials finished dead last. But Xifaxan, which was 62 out of 63, scored an unexpected online hit with a lower intestine running for the bathroom and high-fiving fans. People couldn’t stop talking about him. I have no idea what the side effects are. Well played, Xifaxan.

Puppymonkeybaby may haunt your dreams for days but it is memorable. It has generated 11 million views online and was the most trending commercial of the first half of the game. It was a wise choice by Mountain Dew to air the commercial early and own the initial social media conversation.

What didn’t work

Drake and Steve Harvey are great. T-Mobile’s use of them wasn’t bad. But Internet culture is always about the next meme, not the last one. You knew where the commercial was going. This is something that may have worked 10 years ago, but viewers—particularly those on social media—expect things in real-time, not months later.

Budweiser’s Not Backing Down commercial was thirsty in all the wrong ways. They were desperately trying to keep customers, make fun of craft-beer drinkers and use their history as an appeal. It didn’t work with viewers or online. Bring back horses and puppies next year.

Eli Manning had a rough night. His stone-cold reaction to brother Peyton’s success was the best thing on the Internet. You can’t hide from the Internet. If you make a weird face, they will find it.

Speaking of weird faces, RIP Skittles Steven Tyler (2016-2016).

What might have worked

Taco Bell, which created Pre-Super Bowl intrigue around a top secret new innovation, launched the Quesalupa during the Super Bowl. The ad didn’t play well with USA Today’s Ad Meter but has created good online buzz. Taco Bell’s focus is more on digital where they are making an attempt to own Monday with a series of digital spots featuring local ad legends like the Texas Law Hawk.

Whether it’s a popular hashtag or a buzz-worthy mascot, one thing is for sure: online impact is the new measure of Super Bowl ad success.

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