Kia and Audi rank highly in Super Bowl postmortems

Kia's Super Bowl spot featuring Melissa McCarthy won the 2017 USA Today Ad Meter.

Analysis shows consumers wanted humor and celebrities, but also cinematic storytelling that addressed issues.

Melissa McCarthy’s turn as a tireless ecowarrior for Kia won the 2017 USA Today Ad Meter, which USA Today said marked Kia’s first Ad Meter win – and first top five finish.

The spot was the highest ranked among male and females, 21 to 34, in the annual consumer assessment of Super Bowl ads.

In addition, marketing services and research consultancy BrainJuicer said Kia’s Hero’s Journey was the most emotional ad of Super Bowl 51 based on consumers’ reactions.

“It’s the perfect showcase for this year’s big themes. One was humor, which has been on the rise in recent years and dominated the list of 5-star ads. The other is celebrity,” BrainJuicer said. “This was Super Bowl advertising the way it should be: big stars, big spectacle and big emotions.”

In an email, Michael Sprague, chief operating officer and EVP of Kia Motors America, said the Ad Meter win “is huge for us as we continue raising brand awareness and perception and we are thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the spot and the all-new Niro crossover.”

Sprague attributes the spot’s success in connecting with consumers at least in part to McCarthy herself.

“McCarthy is so talented and as we dreamed up these crazy scenarios – like a breaching whale and a charging rhinoceros – we knew her unique brand of physical comedy would be the perfect way to tell our story about the all-new Niro,” Sprague added.

Kia has advertised in the Super Bowl for eight years.

Kia was followed in the 2017 Ad Meter by…

2. Honda’s Yearbooks

3. Audi’s Daughter

4. Budweiser’s Born the Hard Way

5. Tide’s #Bradshaw Stain

Ad Meter spokesperson Charisse Jones pointed out Honda and Tide also used celebrities, which typically do well, as do ads with humor.

“Also part of what really resonated with viewers [was] that people wanted a lot of the issues in the country be addressed and not ignored. Many of those ads told a cinematic story and were uplifting,” Jones said. “Audi’s commercial didn’t have a celebrity but had a good soundtrack and a great narrative. It was uplifting and the father felt inspired about her future. It was unapologetic with what it was trying to say about equal work and equal pay, and told it in a positive way.”

The buzzed-about – and divisive -- Mr. Clean’s Cleaner of Your Dreams came in at #6 in the Ad Meter. And, according to social media monitoring firm Brandwatch, Mr. Clean also boasted the biggest conversation spike during the game with over 11,700 mentions in one minute.

It was a relatively good night for newcomers with first-time advertisers It’s a 10 Haircare and 84 Lumber coming in at #26 and #29 (of 66) in the Ad Meter, respectively.

“We saw several brands tip their toes into political issues such as equal pay and immigration, making some of the ads this year a little more serious than the audience is used to. Ads that made a statement had more of an impact given the mood of the country,” Jones said. “For instance, 84 Lumber, while it wasn’t at the top of Ad Meter, generated a lot of conversation. A lot of people felt it was powerful in a good way and it had to be addressed. It shows that politics was top of mind.”

Social analytics firm Talkwalker even called 84 Lumber the big surprise of the night.

“The unknown lumber company was in the top 10 ad mentions with their controversial ad telling the story of a Mexican mother and daughter trying to get into America, getting over 30,000 mentions on the night,” Talkwalker said. “The combined views of 84 Lumber’s video on YouTube hit close to 3 million with 1 million views on their Facebook page.”

Brandwatch, too, found 84 Lumber was mentioned the most with nearly 99,000 mentions. It was followed by:

  • T-Mobile with over 90,000 mentions.
  • Audi with more than 85,000 mentions.
  • Mr. Clean with nearly 80,000 mentions.
  • Budweiser with nearly 63,000 mentions.

However, Ace Metrix, which says it measures ad creative effectiveness based on viewer reaction to video ads, said there were some ads that took what it called a “piling on politics” penalty in Sunday’s rankings and it pointed to 84 Lumber in particular.

Ace Metrix said the first half of 84 Lumber’s ad that aired on television was “one of the poorest performers across all Super Bowl ads Ace Metrix has tested,” which it attributed at least in part to viewers having to finish the spot online. In addition, Ace Metrix said Squarespace’s Calling JohnMalkovich.com “just wasn’t able to communicate information clearly” and “Sprint’s humor attempt fell flat.”

And while Ace Metrix said Snickers deserves some credit for its live attempt, “by the time viewers caught up to the storyline, it was over” and CEO Peter Daboll added in a release, “ironically, this ad might have benefited by having more frequency for the viewers to appreciate the comical storyline.”

At the end of the day, Ace Metrix said its analysis, which is based on what it called “scientific calculation of audience ratings (minimum 500 U.S. viewers per ad) and verbatim comments on creative attributes such as attention, likeability, relevance, change, polarity and emotion,” showed viewers wanted lighthearted, relatable entertainment. Further, Ace Metrix said the best Super Bowl LI ads were those that sought to entertain through visuals, relatable storytelling and/or humor.

Ace Metrix’s top five overall included:

  1. Ford’s Go Further
  2. Audi’s Daughter
  3. King’s Hawaiian’s False Cabinet
  4. Nintendo’s Switch & Play
  5. Kia’s Hero’s Journey

“These ads exhibited broad audience appeal, likeable visuals and characters and relevant, often funny, storylines,” Ace Metrix said. “These were also the least polarizing, which is appropriate for the huge, diverse Super Bowl audience.”

In addition, Jones said Coca-Cola had one of the ads that stood out because the brand perhaps played it too safe.

“This year’s ad [from Coke] didn’t generate conversation,” she said. “The other brand that comes to mind is T-Mobile [that] didn’t do that well. They took chances and they just didn’t work across different demographics. For instance, Justin Bieber’s ad worked well for the teenage demographic, but not across other age groups.”

What’s more, Talkwalker said it was Budweiser’s polarizing Super Bowl spot about immigration got the most mentions with just under 95,000 on Super Bowl Sunday and the early hours of Monday. But, Talkwalker noted, not all the attention was positive with the hashtag #BoycottBudweiser used over 8000 times in the same period.

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