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‘Wild Ride’ Most-Watched Ad of All Time while ‘Little Darth Vader’ is Super Bowl Favorite
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‘Wild Ride’ Most-Watched Ad of All Time while ‘Little Darth Vader’ is Super Bowl Favorite

The Super Bowl continues to draw in more viewers than any other televised event as a de facto, TV-watching American holiday. It’s also perhaps the most important marketing moment of the year, as the popularity of the event applies to the commercials as much as the game itself. For Super Bowl XLV, Nielsen found:

  • Two guys describing a woman’s wild ride in a silver Chevrolet Camaro was the most watched commercial of all time.  An estimated 119,628,000 viewers watched the ad, surpassing the previous record holder, a Doritos commercial from 2010 with 116,231,920 viewers.
  • The Doritos ad with the pug dog knocking down the door was the most recalled ad of the game.
  • The Volkswagen Passat ad, with the little Darth Vader starting the car, was by far the favorite ad of the game.

“The Super Bowl continues to be the advertising industry’s premier event,” said Pat McDonough, Senior Vice President for Insights and Analysis at Nielsen. “No other event allows advertisers to reach nearly 120 million consumers at a single time. And with Super Bowl advertisers adding millions of commercial views through online and social media exposure, they are able to extend their multi-million dollar investments beyond the game itself.”

While marketers can gain insight by understanding how many people watched the Super Bowl, the key to the black box of marketing effectiveness is understanding how and why they watch.  By pairing viewership with qualitative ad effectiveness data, The Nielsen Company has been able to delve deeper to decipher the code to Super Bowl commercial watching.

Many marketers produced memorable commercials reinforcing their existing brand images.  Consumer-created Doritos ads made a strong impression, as all three of the creatives made Nielsen’s Top 10 Most Recalled list. Pepsi, Go-Daddy, and the NFL also had well-recalled ads.

Anheuser-Busch’s most memorable commercials were well-placed, airing in the first half of the Super Bowl when, as Nielsen research has shown, Super Bowl ads are usually the most effective. This year, brand recall was 19 percent higher in the first quarter than in the fourth quarter. In fact, six out of the top ten most recalled commercials this year aired in the first quarter alone. Eight of the top ten were shown before half time.

Nielsen’s Top 10 Most-Recalled Commercials in Super Bowl XLV
Recall Rank Brand Ad Description Game Quarter Recall Index
1 Doritos Pug knocks down door (:30) Q1 179
2 Budweiser Cowboy in Western saloon (:60) Q2 166
3 Doritos Man licks cheese crumbs off of coworker’s fingers (:30) Q1 159
4 Pepsi Pepsi Max — Couple on first date (:30) Q4 153
5 Pepsi Pepsi Max — Soda cans shoot out of cooler (:30) Q1 150
6 Snickers Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr complain while working (:30) Q2 149
7 Doritos Housesitter brings grandpa back to life (:30) Q1 148
8 NFL TV clips montage (:60) Q3 147
9 GoDaddy.com GoDaddy.co — New spokesperson Joan Rivers (:30) Q1 146
10 Budweiser Bud Light — Kitchen redesigned with a bucket of beer (:30) Q1 145
Source: The Nielsen Company. The Recall score is the percentage of viewers who can Recall the brand of an ad they were exposed to during the normal course of viewing the Super Bowl. These scores are then indexed against the average score for all Super Bowl ads (Recall Index). 100 equals average. For example, with a Recall Index of 179, the Doritos “Pug” ad was 79% better-recalled than the average Super Bowl spot.

While advertisers can strategically place their commercials in certain commercial pods to achieve maximum brand exposure or generate awareness, there is a little more mystery involved when it comes to delivering a likeable commercial.  Many times, the darlings of the Super Bowl attract the most post-Game buzz publicity and attention, supplementing the in-game impact with long term popularity. While the automotive category has traditionally been less effective in persuading consumers to buy based on TV ads, automakers had a strong presence in the top 10 this year.

“This year’s Super Bowl was really symbolic of the automotive industry’s comeback story,” said David Kaplan, SVP, Advertising Effectiveness for Nielsen. “Only twice in the last 10 years have we seen the auto category crack the Top 10 best-liked spots, and both times it was with just a single ad. The fact that this year four automotive ads moved into territory normally dominated by beverage and snack food ads indicates that these brands have really raised the bar in terms of creative quality and narratives that resonate with viewers.”

Nielsen’s Top 10 Most-Liked Commercials in Super Bowl XLV
Likeability Rank Brand Ad Description Game Quarter Likeability Index
1 Volkswagen Passat — Little Darth Vader starts car (:30) Q2 186
2 Bridgestone Woodchuck saves driver (:30) Q4 171
3 E*Trade Baby talks next to sneezing cat (:30) Q4 168
4 Doritos Man licks cheese crumbs off of coworker’s fingers (:30) Q1 159
5 Doritos Housesitter brings grandpa back to life (:30) Q1 151
6 Volkswagen Beetle – Beetle navigates the wild (:30) Q4 146
7 NFL TV clips montage (:60) Q3 141
8 Chrysler 200 — Eminem represents Detroit (:120) Q3 138
9 Budweiser Bud Light — Dogs work at party (:30) Q4 133
10 Audi A8 — Men break out of old luxury (:60) Q1 127
Source: The Nielsen Company.

Although consumers may face some degree of ad fatigue as the game progresses (hence the decrease in brand recall later in the game), viewership during the game increased. All of this year’s top-viewed ads were seen in the last quarter of the game, with the exception of the NFL ad. These ads were placed at the beginning or end of the commercial breaks in the fourth quarter, when the game was reaching its climax. As more people tuned in to watch the suspense unfold, these ads were able to capitalize on huge exposure.

Nielsen’s Most Watched Commercials in Super Bowl XLV
Time of Air (ET) Game Quarter Brand Description # of Viewers (000)
9:56:21 PM Q4 CHEVROLET CAMARO AUTOS 119,628
9:59:31 PM Q4 CHEVROLET CRUZE AUTOS 119,333
9:21:19 PM Q3 NATL FOOTBALL LEAGUE SPORTING ASSN 118,155
9:31:38 PM Q4 RANGO MOTION PICTURE 117,565
9:44:00 PM Q4 BRIDGESTONE TIRES 117,565
9:44:30 PM Q4 GODADDY.COM WEBSITE-INTERNET SVCS 117,565
10:00:01 PM Q4 LIMITLESS MOTION PICTURE 117,565
10:00:31 PM Q4 SKECHERS SHAPE-UPS SPORTING FOOTWEAR WOMENS 117,565
9:57:21 PM Q4 VERIZON WIRELESS TELEPH SVCS-WIRELESS WEB ACCESS 116,976
9:45:00 PM Q4 VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE AUTOS 116,092
9:45:30 PM Q4 FOX  RAISING HOPE  TV PGM-PRIME-ENT 116,092
9:46:30 PM Q4 MERCEDES-BENZ AUTOS & TRUCKS 116,092
9:47:30 PM Q4 FOX  CHICAGO CODE  TV PGM-PRIME-ENT 116,092
9:47:40 PM Q4 FOX  HOUSE  TV PGM-PRIME-ENT 116,092
Source: The Nielsen Company