Which commercial won the Super Bowl? Depends on who you ask

The measurement and ranking of Super Bowl advertising is as diverse as the commercials themselves. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting ads.

Which commercial won the Super Bowl? Depends on who you ask
[Photo: Tech. Sgt. Larry A. Simmons/U. S. Air Force]

How do you measure the success of a Super Bowl commercial?


No, seriously, how do you do it? Because everyone else is. As the profile and cultural significance of the big game has only grown for advertisers (not to mention the price of entry, pegged this year at about $5 million for every 30 seconds), so too have the ways in which we determine their popularity, scale, and effectiveness.

Let’s break down five different top 5 rankings and see what it might tell us about which ad really won the Super Bowl.

The granddaddy of all metrics (at least for many CMOs) is the USA Today Ad Meter, measured by public voting. Its top-ranked ad this year is the NFL’s “The 100-Year Game.” And yet out of four other major rankings, the league’s paean to itself was nowhere to be seen. The NFL spot was followed by Amazon Alexa’s “Not Everything Makes the Cut,” Microsoft’s “We All Win,” Hyundai’s “The Elevator,” and Verizon’s “The Coach Who Wouldn’t Be Here.”

[Image: courtesy of Immersion Neuroscience]
In addition to the aforementioned Ad Meter, we’re considering: Immersion Neuroscience, which monitors the release of oxytocin from the brain to measure the emotional resonance of each ad; EDO, a TV measurement and analytics company cofounded by actor Edward Norton that measures real-time impact of ads by capturing minute-by-minute changes in online searches and other web activity; Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s annual analysis of social media chatter throughout and after the game; and finally, YouTube’s report on the most-viewed Super Bowl ads.

YouTube reported on Monday morning that its most watched Super Bowl ads so far are: Verizon’s “The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here,” Amazon Alexa’s “Not Everything Makes the Cut,” Jeep’s “Big Game Blitz,” Hyundai’s “The Elevator,” and Marvel Studios’s new Avengers trailer. So a little consensus seems to emerge around Verizon, Alexa, and Hyundai as being among the best, but then Salesforce Marketing Cloud reports that the five most-talked-about brands were Bud Light, Pepsi, Budweiser, Doritos, and Avocados from Mexico, and now I don’t know what to believe.

So let’s go to the science and see what it has to say!



The company reports that Toyota’s “Wizard” spot, for the relaunched Toyota Supra, generated more than 25 times as much online activity as the median Super Bowl ad in the minutes after the spot aired. The most unexpected standout was WeatherTech’s 15-second CupFone spot, which drove eight times as much online traffic as the median Super Bowl ad.

1. Toyota “Wizard”

2. Kia “Give It Everything”

3. WeatherTech “CupFone”

4. Hyundai “The Elevator”

5. Amazon Prime “Hanna”


Immersion Neuroscience

Of its winner, Mint Mobile’s “Chunky Style Milk?” ad, Immersion Neuroscience CEO Paul Zak says, “This is a ‘can’t stop watching’ ad. It shows it does not take a lot of money or celebrities to create a highly immersive narrative. This ad had a very high immersion peak in the second half.” Meanwhile, as opposed to EDO’s ranking of WeatherTech, Zak’s group found the company’s ads to be the game’s biggest loser. “They were confusing, unfocused, lacked a coherent storyline, and were so bad they seemed like a joke,” says Zak. “The first ad even used a dog, generally a big oxytocin booster, but the unfocused narrative diminished even this. We suggest they get a new ad agency and test ads before releasing them.”

1. Mint Mobile “Chunky Style Milk?”

2. Marvel Studios “Captain Marvel”

3. Michelob Ultra “The Pure Experience”

4. Wix “Karlie Kloss”

5. Bon and Viv Spiked Seltzer “The Pitch”


So what did we learn here?

Hyundai’s “The Elevator” starring Jason Bateman appears in three of these five different Top 5 rankings. Is it the clear winner? Let’s wait until the carmaker’s next sales report to decide.

What these diverse set of rankings must tell marketers is that Super Bowl ad success is subjective. Maybe you’re looking for an immediate sales boost, maybe you’re just aiming to build brand awareness or buff your image. Or perhaps you’re playing the long game, and this pricey piece of media real estate is simply one piece of a larger campaign puzzle. All these new metrics give Super Bowl advertisers a way to justify the expense and potentially declare themselves one of the night’s big winners.

While each brand can now have its own version of Super Bowl success, there is one thing we can all agree on: This, uh, should never have happened.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.