Andrea Davis-Gonzalez was keenly intent on who won the Super Bowl, but she didn’t watch any football on Sunday. Instead, Davis-Gonzalez, the editorial manager for iSpot.tv, spent the afternoon scurrying about the company’s Bellevue office, making sure her staff inputted correct data and descriptions so the company could achieve its most important marketing goal of the year: determining who won the Super Bowl of advertising.
Super Bowl Sunday is a big day for iSpot, which bills itself as the most accurate tracker of real-time TV commercial data. From a product standpoint, nothing changes during the NFL championship — iSpot clients get real-time data on the broadcast views and social media impressions their ads generate, just as they would any other time of the year — but the Super Bowl presents iSpot with an invaluable opportunity to broaden its reach beyond existing clients.
“Everybody in the media is going to be using our data,” CEO Sean Muller told the 100 or so staffers on hand before the game began. “We are going to decide who wins this game, not the referees.”
Accomplishing this took a coordinated media campaign, with publications such as The New York Times and Forbes using iSpot metrics to cover the efficacy of advertisements. TV advertising is a big business in need of reliable data — iSpot estimates more than $480 million dollars were spent on Super Bowl ads this year, and more than 100 million people watched the game.
“We basically help (clients) understand how well they did, and based on that, they can make a myriad of decisions,” Muller told me in his office before the game. “Maybe it’s a campaign they want to continue running, or adjustments they want to make for future events, or if they want to be in the Super Bowl next year.”
The company’s goal was to communicate this information as quickly as possible during the Super Bowl, which kept employees like Davis-Gonzalez busy. After a commercial was pulled from the broadcast feed, Davis-Gonzalez coordinated her team of writers, who cut the ad to its precise length and added metadata and descriptions. Accuracy is critical when evaluating the success of ad campaigns, which iSpot sorts by brand and by spot. Much of this takes place with manual input from the editorial team, so Davis-Gonzales spent her night confirming how Disney’s “Jungle Book” trailer should be categorized (it was assigned to the Walt Disney Pictures, not Walt Disney Studios), and that both pre-game releases and in-game ads were showcased appropriately on the website (this was an issue for a KFC ad during the first quarter). She didn’t have much time to chat.
While this was taking place, other staffers were tracking the duration, placement, timing, and other details of ads to validate the editorial staff’s work. One room was filled with a group responsible for producing keywords used to track an ad’s performance on social media.
“We’re entering keywords that wouldn’t always match, like ‘Amazon ad’ and ‘Alec Baldwin,’ because right now most tweets are about the Super Bowl and that specific ad,” said Jeanna Wilkes, an iSpot account manager who oversaw the keywords team. “Then after the game we’ll delete them and use more Super Bowl-specific words.”
On a whiteboard in the keyword room were rules of thumb guiding this temporal progression. Mentions of Alec Baldwin on Twitter and Facebook were good news for Amazon during the game, but once the game concludes and the ad fades from the public conversation, iSpot will use “Alec Baldwin Super Bowl” as the keyword to prevent any Baldwin gossip from counting toward Amazon’s ad stats.
The group also monitored Twitter trends during the game to eliminate bogus keywords they’d chosen. “George Washington” had to be removed as a keyword used for an Apartments.com ad because, oddly, there was a large amount of independent tweets about the first president during the Super Bowl.
After pulling ads, inputting and verifying metadata, and determining social keywords, iSpot crowned the most effective brands and spots of the Super Bowl, a title with huge financial implications for brands. “They have to know their investment was worthwhile,” Muller said. Firms paid nearly $5 million for a 30-second ad slot during Super Bowl 50, and that tally doesn’t include fees for high-profile actors (about 40 celebrities appeared in ads during this year’s game) and the online pre-Super Bowl ads that teased during-Super Bowl ads.
Muller said the key driver of effective ads remains creativity. Based on digital share of voice, a company metric that factors in social media and search traffic an advertisement generates, the best Super Bowl ad was Mountain Dew’s Puppymonkeybaby. Coming in ahead of ads featuring Ryan Reynolds, Steve Harvey, and Kevin Hart, Mountain Dew showed that a digital-savvy, creative ad in 2016 consists of a terrifying hybrid species and repetition of a nonexistent word. Hyundai’s star-studded commercials (Hart’s and Reynolds’ commercials generated huge traffic before the game even started) made it the most-discussed brand of the evening.
But the Super Bowl ad contest doesn’t end with the Super Bowl; in a couple weeks, iSpot clients will get a second report detailing campaign success over a longer period. The ad conversation is already shifting. Since the game ended, the Jason Bourne trailer is faring best (8.47-percent share of voice to Puppymonkeybaby’s 4.38), and Doritos (9.5 percent) is topping Hyundai (8.51 percent).
This post has been edited.