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The top 10 Super Bowl commercials of 2016 generated almost 2.9m fewer shares than in 2015.

This year the triumphant commercial on social media was shared 893,000 times, a sharp decrease from last year's top figure of 2.5m.

Why? Well, I think advertisers have failed to spot the winning formula of previous years.

How to spot a sharable commercial?

Unruly Media provides share data for each commercial and also provides a handy framework for estimating a commercial's social success (so-called ShareRank).

Before we look at why 2016's videos performed poorly, let's analyse this framework.

There are two scorecards below - one for social motivations for sharing and another for psychological responses elicited.

It's simple really, videos should create a reason to share, as well as provoking a strong or intense response. Though these are subjective measures, they work well.

Look back to 2013 and you'll find a humour-based GoDaddy commercial that evoked three intense psychological responses (shock, disgust, surprise), but didn't give enough social motivation to share.

Consequently, it got significantly fewer shares than Budweiser and Ram, who used happiness, warmth and pride whilst also providing plenty of social motivation to share.

psych response to video

social motivation for sharing video

Doritos - Ultrasound (893,465 shares)

Doritos 'Ultrasound' was the most shared commercial of Super Bowl 50. In some ways, this shows the weakness of the field.

With none of the competition really nailing both reactionary creative and social motivation to share, Doritos could come through the pack by creating a strong response.

If you read the comments on the Doritos Facebook page, you'll see a mixed reaction from Doritos fans.

Humour can be divisive and a bit of a red herring, in that as much as it creates strong psychological responses, it may only provoke the social motivation of 'reaction seeking' among your friends.

Of course, a Super Bowl TV spot reaches more people than the online video will, so one could argue that Doritos is right to eschew social motivation to share, if it merely wants to stick in the viewers' minds.

T-Mobile - Restricted Bling (346,854)

This T-Mobile commercial is undoubtedly humorous, but not outrageously so. With this number of shares, it would have placed fourth in 2015.

Social motivations for sharing may reside mainly with Drake fans (who may want to capture the zeitgeist and highlight a shared passion).

There are plenty of Drake fans, of course, and the music video for Hotline Bling became a meme in its own right. Combined with Drake's acting prowess, this makes for a sit-up-and-take-notice commercial.

But it's probably not one to share for most of us, as the meme is somewhat yesterday's news for all but hardcore fans.

One other point I would make, unrelated to sharing, is that focusing the commercial on duplicitous company execs (albeit it comedy actors) is a risky move.

The intent is to convey these characters as representing other networks, but opens T-Mobile to accusations of hypocrisy (see its Facebook page for examples of this).

Orange succeeded with its clueless execs because they were more stupid than greedy (crowbarring Orange into films in a hilariously incongruous way). T-Mobile is seeking to create the same style of humour but on riskier ground.

Budweiser - Give a Damn (301,317 shares)

I think it's fairly simple to sense the problem with this Budweiser commercial. There is oodles of social motivation to share (utility, kudos, shared experience etc.), but much like the English, the video doesn't provoke much psychological response.

It's hard to think what Mirren could have said to shock on network TV. 'Pillock' doesn't really get everybody talking nowadays.

The script isn't particularly pithy and it feels like a public service campaign (when it should feel like a great advert that also rams home a message).

Full marks for cause, but not for execution.

For more on social video read '10 big trends happening in social video'.

Ben Davis

Published 10 February, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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