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Super Bowl Deep Dive: Mtn Dew And Budweiser’s Big Game Ads

We’re less than two weeks away from the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons going head to head, but the advertising industry is anticipating a different game.

In 2016, Unruly’s Science of Sharing: Super Bowl 50 whitepaper showed us that shares fell 17%. However, that doesn’t mean some ads didn’t stand out from the crowd. Mountain Dew’s #Puppymonkeybaby was one of the most polarizing, and Budweiser’s #NotBackingDown was one of the most anticipated – after years of taking home that most shared ad of the Big Game.

Using Unruly EQ, our content evaluation tool, we took a deep dive into both ads to learn what worked, what resonated, and what didn’t. Enjoy!


Deep dive into Mountain Dew’s #PuppyMonkeyBaby

One of the most polarizing ads of Super Bowl 50 was undoubtedly Mountain Dew’s #PuppyMonkeyBaby. When we tested the ad for engagement and shareability it was just about average. It was hurt by negative responses of both confusion and disgust, especially among older viewers.



Brand favorability results were poor, causing 22% of viewers to feel worse about Mountain Dew after watching the video, 4x more than the US norm of 5%. Despite the negative EQ score, #Puppymonkeybaby was still a hit with Millennial males when it came to brand promoter scores, scoring at 65%. (See chart below)


PuppyMonkeyBaby Chart

Thanks to the success within the vocal super-sharing Millennial male demo, #Puppymonkeybaby was able to snag the spot as the 7th most shared ad of the Super Bowl. Along with its sharing success, brand favorability in this demo was higher by 58% and only 8% of Millennial males felt worse about Mountain Dew after viewing.


Strategy Shift in Budweiser’s #NotBackingDown

After having a three year streak of being the most shared ad of the Super Bowl, Budweiser took a break from their leading puppy character and switched gears in attempt to have a “mic drop moment.” The alcohol brand’s attempt to switch things up, however, fell short and its brand spot fell to #55 in the share rankings.



Emotional responses to #NotBackingDown were on par with the US norm, (see chart below), but social motivations lacked and fell below average. Pride, happiness, and inspiration were the key emotions, but their goal of exhilaration and nostalgia fell flat and were elicited only among a small fraction of viewers.

NotBackDown Social Motivations Graph

Facial coding analysis showed that smiles were relatively muted through the video, with peaks of surprise and knowledge throughout various scenes. The aggressive nature of the ad did not go down as well as Budweiser’s beer does though, as indicated by expressive dislike throughout the spot.

NotBackingDown Facial Tracking Chart

With the countdown in full speed for Super Bowl LI, advertisers should seek to create video with a wide range of emotions and motivations to score a touchdown with your target audience.