Is Laughter The Best Medicine For COVID-Hit Super Bowl LV?

With 80% of the stands empty, some of the world’s biggest brands including Budweiser, Hyundai and Coca-Cola not taking part in the commercial breaks, and parties not able to go ahead, this year’s Super Bowl is going to feel vastly different to anything that has come before.

One thing that may be familiar, though, is the tone that advertisers will take.

In times of economic uncertainty and political/ social turbulence, we often look to brands to cheer us up. Our research on changing consumer habits during COVID-19 found that 37% of Americans want ads to make them feel warm and happy.

This is particularly true when it comes to the Super Bowl, with funny, celeb-heavy ads as much a part of the Big Game as touchdowns and Hail Mary passes.

Every year, brands pull out all the stops to create memorable Super Bowl ads, with many of them opting for laughs and warm hearts — and this year is no different. A survey by AdColony (reported in Ad Age) found that 81% of people want the ads to be funny this year.

Each year we test the most popular Super Bowl ads to uncover the emotions that viewers felt while watching them — and hilarity and happiness have remained consistent in Super Bowl ads throughout the past five years.

The following percentages represent the US norms, based on all the ads we tested for that year’s Super Bowl.

Hilarity:

  • 2016: 10%
  • 2017: 6%
  • 2018: 10%
  • 2019:11%
  • 2020: 8%

Happiness:

  • 2016: 14%
  • 2017: 14%
  • 2018: 15%
  • 2019: 14%
  • 2020: 13%

Last year, Jeep’s ad “Groundhog Day” topped our happiness chart, leaving 25% of viewers feeling intensely happy after watching, followed closely by New York Life Insurance’s “Love Takes Action” and T-Mobile’s “Mama Tests 5G” (23%).

According to Unruly research, Super Bowl ads are 150% more likely to make people laugh than the average US ad.

We can expect several brands to employ that as a welcome alternative and antidote to the stressful 24-hour news cycle. Perhaps even some humour directly related to how lifestyles have changed during the past year, ensuring their message hits close to home.

From looking at some of the Super Bowl teasers and ads that have already been released, it’s clear that several brands are actively aiming to cheer us up this year.

Last year, Cheetos resurrected MC Hammer for a Super Bowl spot that our content testing tool, Unruly EQ, found was four times funnier than the average US ad. The Big Game spot also made 15% of viewers intensely happy, which is higher than the US norm of 13%.

This year, the snack brand looks set to continue the laughs and has released two teasers featuring celebrity couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.

Doritos also appears to be going down the comedic route with its spot, continuing from the success they saw last year with “Cool Ranch”, which made 20% of viewers laugh and feel intensely happy.

This year they have released a teaser featuring celebrities Mindy Kaling and Jimmy Kimmel preparing to welcome a mystery talk show guest.

Automotive brand Vroom was the first brand to release its Super Bowl ad this year and has also opted for laughs. The funny spot features a potential car buyer being tortured by a car salesman.

We’ll be running all the major ads from Super Bowl LV through their paces with our content testing and targeting tool UnrulyEQ to understand how they performed and what emotions they evoked in audiences.

To get access to Unruly’s Super Bowl Hub, click here.