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Ace Metrix Names Lightheartedness the Key to Super Bowl LI Advertising Success

by Marty Bernstein
The Auto Channel

America’s television audiences just want to be entertained. The biggest television event of the year attracts the biggest audience and huge numbers of TV critics. Viewers just want to be entertained. Imagine that. This is a no-preaching or harping zone. The Super Bowl is a game, an entertaing game. When it’s good it’s great. When it’s not, as in the first three quarters of LI it is boring, aka non-entertaining except for many of the commercials.

Ace Metrix, a leader in measuring the impact of television and digital advertising, has just released results of its analysis of Sunday’s Super Bowl LI ads, which revealed that this year, Americans overwhelmingly embraced lighthearted, relatable, entertainment over heavy emotion, messaging, and controversial topics. Scientific analysis reveals that American audiences just want to be entertained creatively.

The list of top ten (four of them automotive – record setting) Super Bowl LI ads was derived through scientific calculation of audience ratings (minimum 500 U.S. viewers per ad) and verbatim comments on creative attributes such as attention, likeability, relevance, change, polarity, and emotion. The best Super Bowl LI ads, as rated by American audiences, were those that took a lighthearted approach to everyday life – those that sought to entertain through visuals, relatable storytelling, and/or humor.

The Top Ten Super Bowl LI Commercials

These ads exhibited broad audience appeal, likeable visuals and characters, and relevant, often funny, storylines. These were also the least polarizing, which is appropriate for the huge, diverse Super Bowl audience which accounts for the $5 million cost of air time alone.

Rank    Brand               Ad Title
      1      Ford                Go Further
      2      Audi                Daughter
      3      King’s Hawaiian     False Cabinet
      4      Nintendo            Switch & Play
      5      Kia                 Hero’s Journey
      6      Skittles            Romance
      7      LIFEWTR             Inspiration
      8      Febreze             Halftime Bathroom Break is Coming
      9      Wonderful Pistachios Ernie Gets Physical
      10     Honda               Yearbooks

“The country has been through an endless political food fight for more than a year and it appears that the largest television viewing audience was anxious for some relief, rather than more preaching, and most brands gauged that mood correctly”, said Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix. “This year’s creative crop was heavy on celebrities, humor (some lighthearted, some borderline gross), and entertaining visuals – and relatively light on struggle, charitable endeavors, and controversy -- although there were a few.”

Most brands that dole out the big bucks for Super Bowl airtime have the objective of speaking (and selling) to a huge, diverse, mass market. As consumers want our brands to stand for something, but if the stand is controversial, like hiring a polarizing celebrity, it can offend much of your target.” There were some ads that took a ‘piling on politics’ penalty, particularly 84 Lumber, a newbie to Super Bowl advertising.

A few brands that treaded carefully on edgy topics were successful. When rated by an audience representative of the general population, these ads (such as Audi’s “Daughter” or Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way”) show very little viewer disagreement. In fact, viewers ranked “Daughter” as one of the best-liked and least polarizing ads of this year’s game.

By the way, this now, not-so-secret sauce can and should be used for non-Super Bowl commercials too.