The winner of the advertising Superbowl that took place on Sunday, February 7, that is.  This is not just my opinion.  Comments captured from the digital ether by Alterian SM2 give the Sunday night victory to Google’s “Parisian Love” spot that ran at the end of the third quarter ( has a summary of the results).  Alterian SM2 looked at three measures for each of the 44 advertisers who aired commercials during the 2010 Superbowl:  total mentions, reach, and sentiment.  Google was the leader in mentions by a wide margin (almost 7,000 mentions, compared to 2,100 for the next highest ad–the Tim Tebow ad from Focus on the Family–and an average of  just over 500 mentions for all advertisers).  Google also came out ahead on Alterian’s Social Engagement Index (SEI), which weights the conversations by the popularity of the source.  The SEI for Google’s spot was 1,703 (versus an average of 100 for all ads).  Finally, Alterian weighted the SEI by sentiment to create a second index.   Google came in second on this measure, behind Doritos (SSEI of 673 and 941, respectively, against an average SSEI of 100).  It’s probably worth noting that Doritos ran three different ads during the telecast, against Google’s one spot, and these results do not separate out specific commercials.

Of course, not everyone who has expressed an opinion about the commercials aired during Superbowl XLIV put Google’s ad at the top.  The spot was not, for example, among the “top 10” Superbowl commercials listed at Fanhouse.  But in it’s way, Google’s ad may be the best example of what advertising is supposed to do.  Google’s dominant position in online search (and the revenues that search advertising generates) is under attack from Microsoft’s Bing, and Microsoft has been running ads showing how easy it is to use Bing to do things like find a dimly lit restaurant (apparently a plus for hungry vamps, if we take a recent ad literally).

Google’s spot follows a classic formula, telling a “human interest” story that illustrates the way Google helps someone do, in this case, several different jobs.  The story has a beginning (searching for “study abroad” opportunities), a middle (searching for tips on courting a young French woman and, later, managing a long distance relationship) and an end (searches for  a church in Paris and tips on assembling a crib).  This story is told entirely through Google searches seen in a close shot of a computer screen with a few telling sound effects.  Creating great advertising like this is not easy.  If it were, there would be a lot more of it than there is.   It’s all too easy to fall back on imitation and pop culture references.

By the way, the “worst” ad, according to the Alterian analysis, was the commercial for Select 55, a new ultra-light beer (55 calories) from Budweiser.  The core value proposition for this product is the calorie count, and the ad claims that Select 55 is “the lightest beer in the world,” a boast that is supported by the image of a levitating beer bottle.  As entertainment goes, the ad is not, but if it succeeds in creating customers then what difference does low entertainment value make?

By way of comparison, I had a hard time figuring out what most of the spots had to do with advertising.  With the hype that surrounds the Superbowl ads, I sometimes wonder (especially after seeing the entire set of ads) if the purpose is to sell something or just generate buzz about the ads.  Getting back to the social media data, it turns out that Pepsi generated almost as much buzz by not advertising as the top advertisers managed.

That raises some questions about what the social medial data actually reveal.  There’s a lot of noise in social media data.  For example, not all conversations are specifically about the ads.  Most of the Google conversations were from microblogging (e.g., tweets on Twitter), while on average about half the conversations for any advertiser came from microblogs.  Does this mean that the Google comments are unrepresentatitive in some way?  Or does it mean, perhaps, that most of the variable activity in social media happens in Twitterspace, with other social media showing less volatility?  If we hope to use social media at all to generate consumer insights, we will need to answer these and other questions.

Copyright 2010 by David G. Bakken.  All rights reserved.