When the lights went out at the Super Dome in New Orleans on Sunday night, sportscasters vamped desperately and the social media team at Oreo jumped to action.
Within minutes, the cookie brand produced, approved, and posted a joke graphic on Twitter about dunking in the dark – and won praise (alongside brands such as Audi and Tide ) for nimble social media marketing.
But according to research firm Ace Metrix, which tracks the effectiveness of U.S. advertisement, this year's Super Bowl also showed that social media ad campaigns have their limits.
The "Coke Chase" campaign, which encouraged viewers to follow a fictional race through the desert and cheer for their favourite team, did not crack the top 10; what did was another Coke ad, which had run on television before. Coke's major investment was in the interactive campaign, after the success of its "Polar Bowl" ad last year, during which about nine million people logged in to their computers to watch Coke's polar bear mascots react to the game.
"Great creative still drives great social media experience, not the other way round," said Ace Metrix chief executive officer Peter Daboll.
The top ad from Sunday's game – a touching story of a farmer and his foal, who grows up to be a Budweiser Clydesdale – had emotion and an animal, two of the three elements (humour is the third) that often go into a winning commercial. Once a story is there that people want to watch, it drives online views, and mentions in social media. By Monday, the Budweiser ad already had more than six million views on YouTube. In Canada, where many of the most buzzed-about ads aren't seen because of broadcast rights, the online version is often the only one viewers get to see.
Budweiser launched a Twitter account last week, which it is now using to run a contest to name its newest real-life Clydesdale foal – a social media marketing push Mr. Daboll predicts will be successful.
"It's about delivering that powerful story and beautiful filmmaking," he said.
Ace Metrix tracks ad effectiveness, surveying a different group of 500 people (weighted geographically and demographically to mirror the U.S. population) for each advertisement, and asking them to score the commercials based on a number of factors including likeability, information content, and the desire it creates for the product. Here are the best and worst of Sunday's Super Bowl ads in the United States, according to that survey.
1. Budweiser: "Brotherhood"
Ow, my heartstrings. This saccharine spot about a farmer and his little Clydesdale won over viewers, and was the highest-scoring beer ad Ace Metrix has seen in five years of tracking Super Bowl spots.
2. American Dairy Association's Milk Mustache campaign: "Morning Run"
Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson put his superhero tasks on hold to find a calcium fix.
3. Coca-Cola: "Security Camera"
Normally, old ads don't score as well during the Super Bowl, when special commercials are expected. But this feel-good spot about the nice behaviour sometimes captured by security cameras outperformed Coke's bigger investment, in a spot to kick off a larger social-media campaign.
4. Doritos: "Goat 4 Sale"
The Frito-Lay brand once again scored by tapping into the trend of crowd-sourcing ads with its seventh "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, which yielded this bizarre gem.
5. Mercedes-Benz: "Soul"
The auto maker courted a younger male demographic with a Faustian deal nipped in the bud.
1. Calvin Klein: "Concept"
Last year, the brand used soccer star David Beckham as its model. But the spot fell flat. This year the company is still shilling men's underwear, but this time with a male model doing the job with the requisite angry pout. For some reason, there were also a few quick shots of some sort of wet machinery. It did not appeal to women, or men. The commercial racked up one of the lowest scores Ace Metrix has recorded.
2. GoDaddy.com: "Perfect Match"
A perennial name on the bottom of the list every year, this Web-domain hosting service is frequently criticized for crass ads that have nothing to do with its actual business. This one features model Bar Rafaeli in an extended close-up kiss with a chubby nerd type – ostensibly to demonstrate how the service is "sexy meets smart" but really who are we kidding – came across as exploitive of both the woman and the man we were apparently supposed to mock. The most common word in Ace Metrix's survey comments on this commercial was "gross."
3. GoDaddy.com: "YourBigIdea.co"
This spot was far tamer than the ones GoDaddy has become known for, and marks the first time in nine years of Super Bowl advertising that the company has called upon an actual ad agency for a spot. Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll was surprised to see this one do as poorly as it did, since it seemed to be a departure from the offensive tone of other GoDaddy ads and used humour effectively. However, he speculated that the reverse-halo effect of GoDaddy's other Super Bowl spot may have been powerful enough to drag this one down with it.
4. MiO: "Change is coming"
This line extension for the sports-drink product that has so far been quite successful for Kraft, was not an ad hit – but it may not need to appeal to everyone. The water-flavouring product, and this new sports drink version, is made to appeal to a specific demographic of young "millenial" males.
5. Bud Light: "Lucky chair"
A star turn from singer Stevie Wonder was not enough to make an impact – and illustrates once again that paying big bucks for a high-profile celebrity is not a shortcut to success.