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Ah, the Super Bowl commercial.
The pinnacle of artistic expression. When done well, they challenge the mind, inspire the heart, and some – only the greatest of them all – can truly evolve us as a culture. (Wasuuuuuuuuup!) (Wasuuuuuuuuup!) (Wasuuuuuuuuup!) (Bleeeeeeeeeehhhhh!) Hey, look, I didn’t say it evolved us for the better. [Film Theory intro theme] Hello Internet! welcome to Film Theory, Where we always root, root, root for the home team, as long as that team’s mascot is statistical analysis. And before we begin, a quick shoutout to Merginq – the offical first comment on the Poppy conspiracy video. To be that early, you either rang the subscription bell, or you’re part of the Illuminati. If it’s the first, hey, thanks for the support. If it’s the second, please don’t make me disappear. Please. I HAVE SO MANY THEORIES TO GIVE! But enough groveling to the Illuminati. We’re at that time of the year, dear Theorists when the national conversation is dominated for an entire week by a 4-hour marathon of grown men running into each other to give the most aggressive of hugs. To answer the age-old question: (♫ Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?! ♫) No. No, I am not. And no, Monday Night Football, no amount of destroying national landmarks is gonna get me ready. Thanks though. Now all of this isn’t to say that I don’t like the Super Bowl – far from it, actually. True, I might not be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to Sportsball, but I do love gargantuan plates of chicken wings, and snarkily tweeting at halftime shows that go hilariously awry! No, not that one. Naw, THIS one. You do you, left shark! You do you.
DANCE! DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING! Nope, throughout the evening, away from the pigskin, there’s another higher stakes game being played that I’m more interested in. And no I’m not talking about the Kitten Bowl, I’m talking about the commercials. Almost one in four Super Bowl viewers last year reported that they were watching purely for the commercials. Which is fascinating. I mean, everything from Tivo to ad blockers to YouTube Red seems to indicate that we’re trying really hard to avoid commercials, but one day out of the year, we all agree to give ’em a chance. And companies pay – 5 million dollars for just 30 seconds! In the next 10 years that number is expected to climb to TEN million dollars for 30 seconds. At that rate, someone screaming “DIET COKE!” at the camera for one second would cost $150,000. One hundred fifty THOUSAND for a SECOND! but sometimes if you do it right, you create a classic, like the Apple 1984 commercial, or the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” ad. Note, though, that I said, “if you do it right.” Because for every memorable one, there are dozens that are forgotten faster than an American Idol runner-up. Except for you, Clay Aiken, you’ll never be invisible to me. So today I’m setting out to determine, based on the data, what makes the perfect Super Bowl commercial. I measured various ad scoring systems, best and worst of the year lists, fluctuations in corporate stock prices, Google Trends search data, Basically everything about the commercials from the past ten Superbowls to answer the ultimate question; Who will win the BIGGEST of big games? The game for Superbowl Commerical Supremacy. So strap on your helmets, theorist team, and pat the butt next to you because it’s time to kick off! That’s a footballing term for starting the game. Now if we’re going to build the perfect Superbowl commercial, it’s a good idea to start simple. What should the commercial sell? The obvious answer seems to be beer. Since beer commercials dominate the list of the highest rated ads over the past ten years, with twenty-three of the top hundred ads, the most of any other product category, and an average of USA Today Ad Meter score of 7.91 out of 10. That Ad Meter, by the way, is the most famous reviewing mechanism for Superbowl commercials, And a score of 7.91 means that the audience liked those commercials a lot. So long story short, just make a beer commercial, right? Well, those statistics should come with an asterisk, because every one of those 23 commercials is for either Budweiser or Bud Light, and Anheiser Bush, which makes both of those beers, has multiple ads running during the ol’ big game. For the past two years, sure, they’ve had two commercials in the top ten, but four MORE that didn’t do NEARLY as well. So just being a beer isn’t gonna result in a slam goal. Uh, a field down. Just kidding, I know enough about sports to know that it’s called a home run. In fact, being a beer might be the football equivalent of being put in the penalty box. In a study at Stanford’s graduate school of business around Super Bowl commercials, researchers found that when two major competing brands advertise, most of the gains of running the ad are eroded. So, in other words, even if you ran a great beer ad, There’s a high likelihood that Bud Light
would get the credit for it anyway. Instead, you’ll make the most money off your commercial if nobody’s selling a product in direct competition with yours, eliminating beers, cars, and insurance providers. Let me just say, I know that football has a lot of head injuries, but, really, WHY are there so many insurance commercials during the Super Bowl? Because I, as a football viewer, want to think about responsible economic decisions, while my wing-stained fingers reach for another handful of pork rinds? Speaking of, though, snack food. It’s actually the best product to advertise during the Super Bowl for multiple reasons. One, it’s easy to differentiate Doritos chips from Dannon yogurt. One is delicious, and one is bacteria-infested mil-[laughing] I have never understood you, yogurt. You are so strange. [beep noise] One is delicious, and one is bacteria-infested mil-[laughing] I can’t do it. [beep noise] One is delicious, and one- [laughing] God damn it! Get through it, Mat! [beep noise] One is delicious, and one is bacteria-infested milk. And two, according to the same Stanford study, if a Super Bowl commercial can draw an association between the consumption of its product and watching sports, well then, people are more likely to buy it in future sports-watching sessions. So, okay, we’re hockin’ snack food, but what’s the optimal time to do it? According to the data, you don’t want to come too early – …phrasing… but also don’t want to risk running too late. Airing a commercial later in the game runs the risk of missing viewers who have turned the game off because the score isn’t close. In 2014, for example, the Seattle Seahawks demolished the Denver Broncos 43 to 8. And by the fourth quarter, the result was a forgone conclusion. As a result, at the end of the game, there were only about 46 million viewers still left watching. As such, the second quarter is ideal. Not only are the overall rankings of commercials highest during this quarter, but putting your ad in the second quarter also capitalizes on another benefit, social media traffic. This Nielsen graph shows the distribution of tweets during last year’s Super Bowl, and that spike in the middle shows that people are much more active on Twitter during halftime. Airing a commercial during the second quarter increases the likelihood that any social media traffic will be fresh on people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds before everything gets buried under snarky Tweets about the halftime show, thereby getting it more views and more shares. And seriously, let’s face it, when are you most in the mood for a snack food commercial? Early on, when somebody might actually go on a snack run during halftime? Or in the fourth quarter, when you’ve already eaten half your body weight in nachos? I mean, even FatPat has his limits. So we have the topic and the timing, now all we need is the tone. What style of commercial works the best? Is it better to go funny, like Betty-White-talking-trash-during-a-game-of-pickup-football-funny, (Betty: That’s not what your girlfriend said!) Or do you smack ’em right in the feels, like, say, a lost puppy who’s saved by some horses and then they become friends, and then the puppy is reunited with his owner? And… why are we chopping onions in my recording closet? [sniff] I’m okay. Well, here’s the big secret – it doesn’t matter. If you truly want to make a winning Super Bowl commercial, just feature an animal. No joke, nothing beats the power of cute. Throw in a sad puppy or a funny herd of cats, and overall Ad Meter audience approval scores for those commercials leap up to an average of 8. A full one and a half points above a typical ad spot without animals, regardless of the tone. Just, uh, make sure that you don’t go overboard and create something like Mountain Dew’s puppy-baby-monkey monstrosity of 2016. Just…. just no. It’s like an Undertale amalgamate of awful. There’s a reason this pile of brand-approved barf reviewed at a 3.9/10. Abysmal! But then again, looking at the data, it did create the biggest internet response of the night, with almost 50,000 tweets immediately after it aired. So is the best strategy to make the worst commercial? Well, no, actually. Looking at the stock price for Pepsico, the company which owns Mountain Dew, it didn’t do a lot for business the next day, only getting a slight boost of 1.17 points. Any marginal benefit they got from the Super Bowl commercial died away within the week. And actually, when you come to look at the data, it’s a common trend with companies that advertise during the Super Bowl. Looking at Google Trends search data, sure, the day of the game and immediately after, searches for Doritos, the commercial winner of the last few years, shows a big spike in search, but by the end of the week, they’re back down to normal levels. People have moved on with their lives and think about Doritos the same way they’ve always thought about Doritos. As triangular-shaped signs of the Illuminati. And that, quite honestly, leads us to our ultimate answer. The Illuminati. Nope, nope, sorry, that was last video. The ultimate answer to how to create the best Super Bowl commercial is, you don’t. Sure, you can shell out your five million dollars, grab your snack food, pin down a few cute animals, shove something funny into the second half, and then cross your fingers that the masses A) are watching, B) don’t hate it, and C), no one else is shillin’ for a similar product, or, you just spend that 5 million dollars somewhere else. Somewhere better. Somewhere where you will actually get a solid return on that money. Because here’s the thing – making a Super Bowl spot is the biggest gamble of the game. Competition amongst advertisers is the fiercest of the year, not everyone watches the commercials, but most of all, the value that you get out of it is questionable at best. Remember that I mentioned before that Bud Light is usually a top contender of this thing? In fact, Bud Light has been the official beer of the NFL since 2011, and paid 1.2 billion dollars for that right, but in that time, its volumes have fallen more than ten percent, as they lose ground to independent local craft beers. Sure, based on Google Trends, brands like Doritos get a strong bump in search every year that they run an ad, but it goes away in a few days. In fact, one ad research firm estimates that 80% of Super Bowl commercials don’t boost sales. Another survey by the marketing analytics agency Adlucent showed that less than 1% of viewers watch to influence any kind of purchasing. And looking back at history, plenty of companies that have run Super Bowl ads have gone out of business shortly thereafter. One of the most famous was pets.com, a company whose first commercial was a Super Bowl ad, that was ranked #1 of the year and had the highest brand recall by audiences of any other ad. And yet, despite building a bunch of brand recognition by spending over 11 million dollars on ads, that year, they only earned 619 thousand dollars worth of business. Even the best ad of the Bowl couldn’t bring in customers, and they were quickly bankrupt. Then there was Just for Feet, which went out of business in large part thanks to their racist ad of drugging a Kenyan runner to give him tennis shoes. Or, how about Wix? A company that never posted a profit, but decided to run a ten million dollar ad anyway in the hopes of turning their fortune? For the next two days, their stock plummeted! Not only because they didn’t get new customers, but because the stockholders were like WTF are you doing?! Lucky for them, the stock price returned to average later in the week. Even going all the way back to that iconic Apple commercial I mentioned before, this was perhaps the commercial that made the Super Bowl ads into the spectacle that they are today. Oh, and Apple tried to do it again next year, with an ad spot showing people jumping off a cliff like lemmings, it didn’t go over so well, and they wouldn’t do another ad during the big game for another 14 years. But perhaps most telling of all is Esurance last year, a company who didn’t run an ad during the game, instead doing it during the pregame, and they dominated social media, getting eight times the amount of mentions of their hashtag relative to second place. And those are just a few select examples! So instead, what do you do with that five million dollar money pile? Shove it into your mattress? Nah. Buy 1.7 million Crunchwrap Supremes? Nyeh, not that hungry. Spend it on YouTube? Absolutely yes. That one. And sure, you might think I’m playing favorites, because, y’know, this is where I work and all, but let’s compare. The main value everyone cites about the Super Bowl is that it gets your ad in front of 100+ million people who watch the game. Okay, well, for five million dollars, using YouTube’s ad-buying tools, you could pay to have your ad show up in front of at least 100 million video playbacks. Seriously, that’s about what the cost would be. And that’s assuming five cents per view, which would be what’s called a “targeted view”. You see, by paying a bit more, I, as an ad-buying executive, can make sure that my ad runs in front of certain videos in order to target certain types of viewers. It wouldn’t make much sense to run an engine oil ad in front of Zoella, since her audience isn’t tuning up the car that much. But if I really wanted to, I could, by paying a bit more. And for five cents, you can actually get a fair amount of targeting. In other words, for five cents a view, I could force my freakish Mountain Dew puppy-monkey-baby in front of all gamers, and also everyone doing a cringe compilation, and boom! Suddenly I’ve found my perfect audience for that weird freakshow I thought was a good idea that clearly won’t sell me any more Mountain Dew Jumpstart, but hey, at least the snarky gamers will be making fun of it and I’ll be all the trending hashtags. But not only would I have more control over who would be watching my video, I’d be more sure that those people WOULD be watching my video. YouTube doesn’t call them TrueView ads for nothing. You have to watch them in order to watch the video that you came for. And even if you did wait the five seconds and then click “skip”, well, that’s just the same as you tuning out the ad on TV and walking to get more chips. But at least in this case, I know that I got five solid seconds with you. And honestly, the benefits keep coming! Because of online data, I’m able to see the direct impact of my ad. Did you click “skip” or did you not? Did you click through to my website, or did you not? So instead of spending the five million dollars all at once and crossing my fingers that you like it, and that it works, and that you go to my website, and that you download the thing, and that you buy the app, or whatever the F it is, I can instead run the ad on a small scale, hone it and re-cut it to make it better and more effective, and then scale it up to that five million dollars! The money is going to be more effective, meaning that my risk as a business owner is drastically reduced. So for the same price, I’m getting just as many views, with more reliability in the eyeballs that are watching me, and also HOW they’re watching me. This is all good stuff, and it doesn’t stop there. An ad like this would have a greater chance at virality and more staying power. Need an example? Look no further than the one ad that keeps kicking your ass, (Is it the Legend27?) The Legend27. By slamming YouTube with this ad everywhere for a month, Game of War was able to drill the epic lore of the Legend27 into enough people’s heads that it created a meme, that has kept people talking about it weeks after it stopped being funny, creating their own spin-offs and remix videos. It’s also weeks after they stopped running it as an ad unit. That, my friends, is the Holy Grail of advertising, resulting in not just more views, but the sort of cultural impact that “Wasuuuuuuuuup!” and “Where’s the beef?” videos have had off of the Super Bowl in the past. It’s not a one or two day spike like Doritos sees from advertising on the Super Bowl, it is a multi-week to multi-month to lifelong change in the way that people speak and behave around your product. Heck, you could even throw some YouTubers into the mix! I guarantee that they cost a whole lot less than the 500,000 to 2 million dollars traditional celebrities charge for their 30 seconds of ad spots. Heck, I bet most would do it for the free bag of Doritos, or an awesome selfie with puppy-monkey-baby. That stuff is social media gold. But hey, that’s just a theory. A film theory! Aaaaaaaand touchdown!

100 thoughts on “Film Theory: Why Super Bowl Commercials LOSE the Big Game!

  1. One issue with the 100m TV views vs 100m targeted Youtube views: That 100m during the Super Bowl is 100m different people. But say you target gamers. Well, that gamer probably views various game related videos, and might return to the same video due to a comment reply. So while you might get 100m views, you're not being seen by 100m people. Of course, if that 100m is viewership of the game, well, a good chunk of the people aren't paying attention to your commercial, so that could be a bit of a wash.

    A second issue: the whole "Super Bowl ads are a thing" bit. And because of that, you get youtube videos of the ads. Just looking at two "best 10 commercials" for 2019, for example, showed they had 2m views combined. Add up all those videos, the ones for individual commercials, the ones on places other than Youtube, the late night talk show discussions. And of course, people talking about it at the water cooler, well, that's equivalent of being memed.

    Ultimately, though, I wonder if companies would be better off doing something like giving away 2.5m in prizes, and spending 2.5m to administer and let us know they're doing that. And just do that yearly. Seems like that could work better for consumables, anyway.

  2. We always watch for the funniest commercials. One of my favorites was a Verizon one where it shows a ton of people in a room and they all run towards a small door and the first guy blocks it by going in the wrong way and they all get stuck and then when the door gets bigger a ton of them fly away from the growth and then everyone runs in. The funny part was it looked like TABS and when someone was blown back they hit another dude and decked him. The purple commercials on YouTube (the long ones) are funny too even though those didn’t end up on the super bowl.

  3. You know, this is really something I've always had trouble understanding – like, unless you're advertising to raise awareness about a new product/brand/business or a limited time offer for a product/service with which people are already familiar, I just don't understand some advertising strategies. And the first example that always springs to my mind is Hot Tub Time Machine (ho boy, check out that pun!), a movie that came out back in my college days when people in their 20s still had cable (probably because it was pretty much the only way to get "high-speed" internet) and that (mostly) meant Adult Swim – so in the days/weeks leading up to its release, the commercial breaks on Adult Swim literally started and ended with a Hot Tub Time Machine commercial. And by that I mean the first commercial of the break was Hot Tub Time Machine and then the last commercial of that same commercial break was also Hot Tub Time Machine. So while my excitement was palpable at first, the firehose ad strategy actually eroded my anticipation until I genuinely HATED the sight of it – to such a degree that I didn't just NOT go see it but it took years after its release on DVD for me to watch it, and only then because a friend put it on while I was too drunk to argue (or care). And honestly? I LOVED the movie. I watched and rewatched it and for awhile, quoted it incessantly. Now, a more recent example is the firehose strategy of Geico's YouTube ads lately – I've been watching a lot of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. I hadn't watched her before but once I discovered her, I went all Trainspotting on that shit. Unfortunately, Geico apparently sponsors the absolute shit out of her videos cause I'm only inundated with those stupid unskippable commercials when I'm watching her channel. And all they've managed to do is give me a seething hatred for their brand. I wouldn't consider Geico if they could save me 100% on my car insurance! (Okay, not really but 15% certainly isn't going to undo the bad blood they've fostered in me, is what I'm saying.) Same with that insipid Communism spin-off mobile game – "TIME TO GROW GRORIOUS POTATOES!" I just wanna shove the Cold War up their idle tapping asses! Anyway, what I'm saying is that oftentimes it's not possible to do an ad "the right way" – where it gets you what you want and is demonstrably helpful to your brand/sales – but it's SUPER easy to do it the wrong way and turn people off until your brand is only in their mind because they plan to NEVER buy your product/service out of pure, unadulterated SPITE.

  4. This is one of my favorites on the channel. What about passive influence? so for example, the shopper who doesn't google Doritos, but buys them when they bump into it at the store because of the monkey puppy baby lingering in their subconscious mind?

  5. MatPat: One is delicious and the other is bacteria infegsbsivsivsivibsbksiv * laughter* I’ve never understood you yogurt, you’re so strange
    <cut>

    MatPat: One is delicious and One is bacteriahsbsiboabib *laughter * God damn it
    <cut again>
    MatPat: One is delicious and the other is bachodkvbksibsbkbk *Laughter again * get through it Mat-
    <cut,,,
    Again>

    MatPat: One is delicious and the other is bacteria infested milk

    Me:

    Me: Pffft–

    Me: * countinues to replay this like 20 times until I almost choke on my water*

  6. Ok so I have watched so many of these that I know exactly when to double tap to skip the intro bc I already know what it has to say and can even guess what will come next. Any other obsessive mat pat fans???

  7. if mr beast had made that superbowl add, this vid would be very helpful

  8. YOU KNOW…. PEOPLE MAKE VIDEOS WITHOUT SPENDING ANY DOLLARS…..

    LIKE DO YOU REALLY NEED 5 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THIRTY SECONDS?

  9. In America you allow beer ad IN THE SUBERBOWL when load of small kids are watching. In England we don't even have beer ad after 9 pm to 12 am.

  10. I have a deep deep hatred for adds. None the less this was informative… *finishes preparation on doomsday device for add makers * now how to sell this

  11. I'm not completely certain but I believe an infestation is inherently bad, some of the bacteria in yogurt is actually quite good for you (even the bad ones are good because your body learns to fight it) I really don't like how much the modern world avoids exposure to germs and bacteria in favor of antibiotics, this is probably part of why average life expectancy is going down: no one's body knows how to take care of it's self anymore

  12. Okay okay jeez Matt we get it… the music in the last third of the video was a bit much… umm chill? XD

  13. This isnt football!this looks more like rugby. In FOOTball you use your foot to kick a ball into the bgoal,not run to the other side like rugby

  14. We actually had to write a reflection on that puppy commercial in I&S (Social Studies). It was a strange project. People basically chose one Super Bowl commercial out of four specific commercials and then write about the techniques of marketing used in the video.

  15. Also tik tok ads 0.0 they suck and are booooooooooooooooring videos that nobody cares about thats not funny

  16. A famous example that was Ads banned from super bowl was In 2017 onwards GNC this was due to products containing 3 banned substances from nfl the banned substances in gnc including octopamine and synephine which where illegal and the blacklist by nfl

  17. Sometimes I wish I could rate ads. Sometimes ads are just REALLY enertaining. It might not make me buy the product necessarily, but I still like the ad.

  18. The kitten bowl is the best bowl. Wait…Wait…Wait… kittens in bowls!!!! Yep that’s the best, so cute!!!

  19. Hey matpat the thumbnail is my favorite superbowl game the puppy bowl you want to ban puppy bowl advertising for the next puppy bowl i feel upset that in the title you have the puppy bowl next to that hashtag next to the thumbnail and do also hate the kitten bowl as well

  20. So let me understand sips tea and sulutes the queen super boal ads are like my Christmas ads? one, yet again sips tea with pinky out wairing a monocle and a top hat

  21. OK here's my ad pich whiskey companies go wild.
    I ride in on stag wairing a kilts and carrying a claymore I get handed a glass of whisky I look straight at the camera drink it and then say "worriors refresh themselves with insert your whisky brand here then ride off roaring and brandishing my sword then a cute puppy wonders on and hugs a bottle of your whisky. Done, bam your welcome whisky peps.

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