Arnold Schwarzenegger, U2, Ellen DeGeneres, The Muppets, even Bob Dylan, all made an appearance this year. However despite this star power, online shares of adverts that aired during the 2014 Super Bowl decreased by almost a third from the previous year. This is the first time that shares of Super Bowl ads have decreased year-on-year.

As much as I’d like to entirely blame the influence of U2, it seems there are even bigger reasons for this downturn that dwarf even Bono’s self-importance.

None of the top three most shared ads from Super Bowl 2014 featured celebrities. Trotting out a barely literate, elderly action hero does not an engaging advert make.

It used to work, perhaps in simpler times when we were less immune to the power of a Hollywood star. Celebrities with large fan followings have successfully endorsed products for years and consumer action has followed accordingly. However, the data suggests the presence of celebrities in a video doesn’t correlate with online sharing. 

Only three of the top 12 Super Bowl ads and one of the top five Super Bowl ads include celebrities. Meanwhile, other big campaigns starring Ellen Degeneres (Beats – #36), U2 (Bank of America – #20), Bob Dylan (Chrysler – #15), David Beckham (H&M – #22) and Stephen Colbert (Wonderful Pistachios – #33) failed to make it into the top 12.

Here’s another fairly damning indictment: 93% of people who watched Bob Dylan’s Super Bowl ad didn’t even realise it was for Chrysler. 12% of viewers thought it was an advert promoting the campaign to revitalise Detroit, 3% thought it was to promote America while some 4% thought it was a spot for rival Ford. 

Celebrities do not make an ad more intrinsically shareable, they also can detract from the message in the advert or even the brand name itself. 

This trend is not just restricted to the Super Bowl. Despite brands using celebrities for many of their ads, only 13% of the top 100 shared ads of all time feature star names.

Celebrities cannot be relied on to save a low-intensity, mildly shareable ad. Instead concentrate on the quality of the content itself. The top three ads in the chart above all tell a story or convey a simple message. Others use humour or innovation to drive engagement.

Unruly recommends skipping the star power and instead investing in content evaluation and video distribution. If a brand creates an extremely shareable piece of content, pre-testing will predict the levels of earned media they can expect. However, if the spot is intrinsically shareable, the right celebrity presence can certainly amplify shareability.

Check out the full report here: The Science of Sharing.