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Super Bowl 2016 on Social Media: No True Innovation Despite a Few Winners

Super Bowl 2016 on Social Media: No True Innovation Despite a Few Winners Greg Kihlström

There are many ways to interpret the latest round of Super Bowl ads. If taken as a reflection of our society, one possible read (albeit an admittedly cynical one) is this: we trust celebrities to give us advice as much or more than Nobel Prize-winning mathematicians, we have varying degrees of digestive issues (most likely from all of the Doritos and Bud Light we consume), and we’re in financial trouble (most likely from buying all of those things to fill our apartments and houses). And to be honest, I’d prefer not to think too much further about Super Bowl Babies and their origins, but that probably says something about us as well.


I will leave the critique of individual spots to the countless others weighing in from a creative perspective, but instead wanted to focus on the social media aspect of the game. There seemed to be a few winners on social media this year. These include Esurance, who made a safe but successful bet that giving away money ($250,000 to be exact) through a retweeting campaign would draw a lot of attention, and nearly 2 million tweets later, found themselves to be right, though it’s hard to say if it was any more successful than their 2014 contest. If judging purely by social media chatter alone (good or bad), Doritos, T-Mobile and Mountain Dew came out as winners as well. According to the Marketing Land #Hashtag Bowl, there were more hashtags in commercials than other types of online tie-ins (such as URLs, Facebook links or Twitter handles).


There were many brands trying to get involved in the social media conversation, which didn’t seem to be working as much this year as in years past. Two examples that stood out to me were Wix and Shocktop, who tried to start several Twitter conversations with little success. In general, brands trying to talk to other brands didn’t work this year.


Overall, we didn’t see much innovation in the approach to marketing during the Super Bowl this year, and one wonders if there were countless brands standing by, waiting for something interesting to happen in the game, or hoping to catch lightning in a bottle the way Oreo and a handful of others did in the past. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem the moment presented itself this year. Squarespace did earn points for an interesting (and sometimes amusing) challenge, in having Key & Peele comment live on the game without mentioning either the name of the game itself, team names, or player names. At least that hadn’t been done before.


Snapchat grew up a bit this year by playing host to some heavy hitters like Pepsi, Taco Bell and Amazon using the platform to advertise both before and during the big game. These consisted of everything from “handing over” the corporate account to celebrities to providing branded photo filters. All in all, nothing that hasn’t been done in an equivalent way before on the “traditional” social media platforms, but it is important to note that this was the year Snapchat became a player in the field in this way.


One new addition to the mix worthy of note was that the Internet of Things was on display this year, with both Amazon’s Echo as well as Hyundai’s integration with a phone app (also rated #1 according to USA Today’s Admeter) demonstrating how to market IoT.


Despite plenty of opportunities for breaking new ground, the overall marketing ideas by the major brands this year can be summed up in 4 major categories:





  • Give people stuff for tweeting




  • Make an ad that is bizarre enough to get a social media reaction (good or bad)




  • Try to talk to other brands in a “clever” way




  • When in doubt, use animals and/or celebrities and maybe people will talk about it




There wasn’t much beyond this, and that’s why this year was probably one of the safer Super Bowls in recent memory. It seems that we are due for a brand who will take things a bit further and in a new direction next year. Until then, we can try our best to wipe #puppymonkeybaby from our minds and move on.

Greg is SVP of Digital at Yes&, a performance-driven marketing agency in the Washington, DC region. He was founder and CEO of Carousel30, a digital agency he started in 2003 which was acquired in late 2017 by PCI Communications which, together...

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