Top Super Bowl Commercials Last Year; What Will Resonate In 2018?

Inplace #2

Advertisements (viewed live and on YouTube) have become one of the defining characteristics of the Super Bowl.

So first let’s look at the top five most popular commercials from 2017, and measure their results in terms of branding, traffic and product awareness. Based on these insights, what can we predict about advertising trends in 2018?

–From Rochelle Bailis, Global Director of Content at Hitwise (pictured above).



Kia will be returning for their ninth consecutive Super Bowl advertisement this year, promoting the Kia Stinger (in fact, they’ve already released a sneak peak). Kia traditionally features celebrities in their ads, and it seems this year will be no exception.  “HERO’S JOURNEY” WAS A LIGHT-HEARTED ADVERTISEMENT featured Melissa McCarthy gallivanting around in a Kia Nero, putting herself in life-threatening situations in order to save the world. This slapstick commercial was not only popular, it was also by far the most effective in increasing interest in both Kia as a brand, and the Kia Niro  model more specifically. 

Searches for “kia niro” skyrocketed right after the Super Bowl in comparison to other Kia models, suggesting that the Super Bowl helped spark interest in this particular model.


More women also searched for Kia Niro after the Super Bowl, particularly women aged 25 – 34 and 35-44. This could have been due, in part, to Kia’s decision to highlight a female comedian as the protagonist of their Super Bowl commercial. Will they feature a woman as their “mysterycelebrity” this year as well?

The “Hero’s Journey” commercial not only increased the popularity of the Kia Niro, it also helped increase their share of traffic within the auto industry. Their website ranking against other car manufacturers (based on share of visits), jumped up seven places after the Super Bowl.


Honda will be sitting out of this year’s Super Bowl, and looking into their performance last year might help shed light on why.

HONDA’S SUPER BOWL LI ADVERTISEMENT “YEARBOOKS” was meant to the 20th anniversary of the Honda CR-V, by showing animated childhood “yearbook photos” of icons like TinaFey, Magic Johnson and Steve Carrell.

In spite of this start-studded cast, the Honda CR-V saw only a slight, very temporary bump in searches right after the Super Bowl. It could be that the car model itself was too much of an afterthought in an otherwise popular, entertaining commercial.


Honda’s traffic ranking compared to other auto manufacturers also remained stagnant after the Super Bowl — although its worth noting that ranking increases are harder for larger  auto brands like Honda to achieve (they require much greater increase in traffic to jump rank.) Meanwhile a smaller brand like Kia could reasonably expect more dramatic gains from suich a wide exposure.

As of this report’s publication, Audi has yet to announce whether or not they will pursue a Super Bowl spot this year. Their

2017 commercial, “Daughter,” stoked a lot of controversy, but also may have foreshadowed wider trends in this year’s public discourse.

 AUDI LEANED MORE TOWARDS SOCIAL COMMENTARY RATHER THAN HUMOR IN their Super Bowl LI advertisement, using the backdrop of a father watching his daughter on a rack track to advocate for equal pay for women.

Audi’s advertisement was criticized by some for being too political, and by others for  attempting to ride the feminist bandwagon in spite of the corporation itself having a majority-male executive team. 

Their success in promoting Audi on a brand level was modest. Because they didn’t emphasize a particular model in this advertisement, there was little change in search volume for any popular Audi models.



Audi’s website ranking increased in the lead up to the Super Bowl (perhaps because their advertisement was released early and generated buzz). Butafterwards, their ranking dropped down below it’s pre-Super Bowl place, suggesting any temporary gains were short-lived.

That being said, Audi’s choice of topic was not necessarily a problem; analysts predict that women’s issues will remain a key issue for Super Bowl LII — but for advertisers, this message must be accompanied by authenticity and clear alignment with business values.



Anheuser-Busch will be back in full force this year promoting all four of its beer brands: Stella Artois (for thefirst time since 2011), Bud Light, Budweiser and Michelob Ultra.

LAST YEAR ANHEUSER-BUSCH WENT FULL-ON TRADITIONAL NOSTALGIA,  spinning the tale of perseverant German immigrant, Adolphus Busch, coming to America and meeting his soon-to-be business partner Eberhard Anheuser.

The heartwarming story was likely an attempt to drum up popularity for Budweiser beer, which has been losing sales in the wake of the craft beer movement. There was a sudden spike in “budweiser” searches, but they appeared to be short- lived (and only related to the commercial).

THE RELATIVE RANKINGS OF BUDWEISER.COM within the Food & Beverage industry appeared to jump dramatically after the SuperBowl, likely from people seeking the  commercial (as seen above). However, this sudden jump didn’t seem to stimulate Budweiser sales.According to CNN Q3 shares for Anheuser Busch fell by 2%, as sales for Budweiser and Bud light struggled. Meanwhile brands like Michelob and Stella helped pick up the slack.

This may be why Budweiser has decided to invest more heavily  in  smaller  brands like Stella Artois this year, with different branding than the traditional “All American” Beer Brand that Bud once was. Stella Artois’ pre- released “Buy a Lady a Drink” commercial for Superbowl

LII focuses on a more progressive, cause-based message. It will be interesting to see whether Anheuser- Busch continues elevating and evolving their smaller brands in an effort to remain competitive in a changing beverage market.


Tide has only ventured into the Super Bowl sporadically, with 2017 only being the brand’s third Super Bowl commercial in a decade.

In their 2017 ad, Terry Bradshaw went on a goofy journey in search of a solution to a BBQ sauce stain on his shirt. This commercial appeared to be minimally effective in stirring up search interest in Tide in general, as seen below.



However, a lack of search volume does not necessarily negate success. Most people who
buy Tide detergent don’t search for “Tide” — they just go to the supermarket and buy it. That being said, searches for “tide coupons” climbed steadily for several months after their 2017 commercial aired, suggesting purchase intent (and that perhaps Tide did succeed in increasing the collective desire to purchase their particular brand of detergent.



Search chart based on combined variations of “tide” and searches for variation of”tide coupon” from 11/2/2016 – 4/29/2017. Rank against Home & Garden industry based on relative visit share for 1 week ending 1/28/2017, 2/4/2017 and 2/11/2017.


AUDIENCE: It’s tempting to assume Super Bowl viewers represent all Americans, but they are a unique group. How does your target audience overlap with Super Bowl fans? Can you speak to a specific segment of Super Bowl fans, and their interests? 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Between Super Bowl ads, half-time clips and game highlights, YouTube in particular appears positioned as the top channel for engagement this year.

SOCIAL ISSUES & AUTHENTICITY: Politics remain top-of-mind for viewers this year, but they’ve made it clear that if brands incorporate social justice in their messaging, it must feel entirely authentic.

ADVERTISING: Telling a story, addressing an important issue and making people laugh are great goals, but it’s equally important be specific about the product you’re selling. Last year Kia successfully coupled humor with a positive environmentalist message, all while placing their hybrid Kia Niro at the center of the story.