Super Bowl advertisers' priorities are slowly shifting toward social media buzz and the digital world, but their favored themes haven't changed yet. Much like during the last Super Bowl, this year's big-game ads went for humor and heart by featuring fathers and animals -- and quite a few celebrities, too.
Hyundai had a hit with comedian Kevin Hart playing an overprotective dad, following his daughter while she's on a date. (USA Today crowned it the game-day winner.) Audi scored with a sentimental spot in which a retired astronaut gets to regain the thrill of his glory days after taking the wheel of his son's new Audi R8. Audi (AUDVF) enjoyed a 7,780% interest bump after the ad ran, and a 448% bump for the brand overall, according to Kelley Blue Book. Off the airwaves, Pantene (PG) unrolled a clever, heartfelt digital campaign in which NFL players braid their daughters' hair.
And then there were the animals -- they talked, they sang, they danced. Mountain Dew unleashed the "Puppymonkeybaby," a scary but bizarrely compelling mashup animal that licked faces and led the way to the party. It was also a clever nod to the three most-used creatures in Super Bowl ads. The beverage, owned by PepsiCo (PEP), managed to get #puppymonkeybaby trending during the game.
Honda employed a group of sheep singing Queen to advertise truck-bed audio; Doritos (also part of PepsiCo, through Frito-Lay) had dogs stand on top of each other to disguise themselves as a person and enter a grocery store; and Marmot, an outdoor apparel company owned by Jarden (JAH), used a marmot on a camping trip to go for "cute," though the ad went for a more slapstick gag at the end.
But according to USA Today's poll (which ranked it No. 2 overall) and to iSpot.tv's ad leaderboard (which also has it at No. 2, behind the big-budget Pokémon spot), Heinz won the animal circus with dachshunds (commonly called "wiener dogs") dressed as hot dogs (get it?), running toward condiments in a grassy knoll.
Finally, big brands are still feeling the celebrity love, though packing a bunch of famous people into a room isn't an automatic hit. Bud Light's only ad featured the actors Seth Rogen, Amy Schumer and Michael Peña. Amazon's ad for its Echo device had Alec Baldwin, Dan Marino, Jason Schwartzman and Missy Elliott. Anheuser-Busch InBev brand Shock Top went with the actor T.J. Miller from the show "Silicon Valley." Avocados From Mexico, which had a big hit in last year's game, showed Scott Baio, best known for "Happy Days." The actor Jeff Goldlbum appeared in two different ads. Mini, the car-maker, ran a spot about "defying labels" with athletes Serena Williams and Abby Wambach, and actor Harvey Keitel. Some of these spots worked, some didn't.
Now that all the pricey spots have had their airtime, the contest will continue to play out on social media, where we'll see which brands spent their $4.8 million (the average price for a 30-second spot this year) wisely. Expect ad spend to go up yet again next year -- this time around, brands paid out a collective $377 million for ads, more than was spent in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s combined.
Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology.