Cars and Cause Marketing Among Top Ads at Super Bowl 50

Michelle Markelz
Marketing News
Current average rating    
Key Takeaways

What? Auto commercials made up more than half of the top 10 Super Bowl commercials.

So what? Likeable celebrities, entertaining storyline, and clear information combined to make the most effective ads.

Now what? Marketers can't forget to capitalize on digital on the biggest advertising stage of the year.

​Cars drive ratings among Super Bowl 50 ads with celebrity and storytelling, and cause marketing steps into the spotlight.

Six out of the top 10 Super Bowl 50 ads were automobile spots, according to the USA Today Ad Meter. Hyundai, Toyota, Audi and Honda averaged a score of 6.245 on the meter, which uses a scale of 10.

The top spot, as well as No. 5 and 6, went to Hyundai, an official sponsor of Super Bowl 50. The automaker’s ads touted features of its vehicles such as GPS tracking, voice-operated automatic start and automatic braking technology. Two of Hyundai’s ads featured celebrities, with Kevin Hart playing a helicopter dad (literally hanging from a helicopter) tracking his daughter’s first date and Ryan Reynolds as every resident of Ryanville, where the neighbors can be so distractingly good-looking, you might take your eyes off the road and require some automatic assistance to avoid a collision.

“It wasn’t that long ago that Hyundai was a challenger brand,” says John Immesoete, chief creative officer at Epsilon. “They showed they really have a great understanding of what’s going on with their consumer. They did a great job approaching the audience and getting people to like their ads.” 

With more than 30 years of experience in the advertising industry, Immesoete says advertising for the Super Bowl has always been a bit of a gimmick. Advertising is content created to catch people’s attention when they’re not looking for it, but on Super Bowl Sunday, the audience is hyperaware. “You can’t look for a niche hit,” he says. “A Super Bowl success is a big, talked-about, well-liked communication that people across demographics gravitate toward.”

Immesoete worked with Anheuser-Busch in the past and noted that, overall, the brewer didn’t have a great Super Bowl. “[The Super Bowl] should really be their game,” he says, because the audience of the event is the same demographic drinking Budweiser. “They seem to be at best in the middle, and that’s not where you’re getting as much buzz.”

Flattening Scores and Underutilized Digital

This year’s top ad earned more than a full point less than the top ad of the 2015 Super Bowl. Lower scores could be reflective of the move in advertising away from mass media. “The world is much more personalized than it ever was before,” says Immesoete. “The Super Bowl, while fun, is much more a shotgun, carpet-bombing, expensive approach [to advertising].”

Marketers are finding the best personalization comes from rich data, which makes yesterday’s ad lineup stand out for its lack of digital engagement. Bill Chamness, vice president of strategy at Rain, says he was disappointed in the lack of digital integration. “We’re at a place now where people can really own the moment and the second screen and social to integrate their spots more consistently.”  

Chris Lehmann​, managing director at Landor, agrees that brands that didn’t engage in digital or social media with their spots missed a huge opportunity. “Millions of people are all engaging, continuing the dialogue without it being managed by the brand,” he says.

Everyone’s Talking About the Puppymonkeybaby

Mountain Dew’s “Puppymonkeybaby” campaign featured a creature with a pug’s head, monkey’s torso and baby human legs, which represented “three awesome things combined.” The spot’s hashtag gained worldwide trending status on Twitter. 

Whether that conversation that takes place offline at the water cooler or online, the venue is less relevant than the content of that dialogue. Experts agree that if the only thing people are discussing about an ad is the shock value, that doesn’t translate to the value a brand wants. “You can get attention for something,” Immesoete says. “You can walk down Madison Avenue with no pants on … but is that the attention you want?”

Public Awareness Ads Featured Prominently

Budweiser’s spot featuring Helen Mirren made it into the top 10 and was received with mixed favor. It was among three awareness campaigns that aired throughout the event. The other two, Colgate and No More, urged water conservation and an end to domestic violence, respectively.

“The [No More ad] just hits you in the gut. It was the most unnerving of the commercials,” Lehmann says. The ad showed a text exchange between two women. The one who is not at the Super Bowl party suggests she couldn’t attend because her male partner is “in one of his moods.” David Srere, co-CEO and chief strategy officer of Siegel+Gale agrees, noting that it had the right combination of information and emotional entertainment. “Most of the advertising out there does one of two things: It conveys the information but is incredibly boring, or it’s really entertaining on some emotional level but the information doesn’t come through,” he says. “In the best advertising, the information and the entertainment are the same thing.”

Author Bio:

Michelle Markelz
Michelle Markelz is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. She can be reached at
Add A Comment :

Become a Member
Access our innovative members-only resources and tools to further your marketing practice.