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Emotions Matter: Where 2016 Super Bowl Advertisers Fell Short

Super Bowl 50 has been called “Super Bowl Light”: light in shares and light in substance.

Unruly’s recent Science of Sharing: Super Bowl 50 study shows that shares fell 17% from 2015, primarily because the ads did not evoke intense emotional responses in viewers, which is the key driver of sharing.

Another problem in 2016 was that advertisers elicited similar levels of happiness, inspiration, amazement and hilarity. As a result, nothing was able to truly stand out from the crowd.


SB emotional response


In particular, too many advertisers relied on hilarity, but weren’t able to make viewers laugh hard enough to be memorable. In fact, only 10% of viewers thought the ads were actually funny. While hilarity scored higher than the US norm (see chart below), the Super Bowl norm would need to be off-the-charts given how many advertisers went for this emotion.



Jeep is one exception that was able to stand out with “Portraits,” which elicited the unusual emotional response of pride, helping to make it memorable. Jeep also used stark, black and white visuals, which helped it stand out from the cluttered visual environment.




To generate shares, advertisers should pick 1-3 responses that make sense for their brand and amp those up! The most effective social videos combine emotional responses and cognitive responses, such as knowledge and surprise which can convey product information and get attention.