Harrison Ford's dog was officially funniest thing about Super Bowl, study finds

Unruly tested the emotional IQ of the best ads over Sunday.

The results are in and Harrison Ford’s dog won the largest number of smiles this Super Bowl, according to a study conducted by Unruly.

The ad tech company analyzed four of the biggest ads to find out which brand rules our emotions over the weekend.

Staff used the UnrulyEQ tool, which creates emotional scores from ads by using data from panel-based surveys and facial coding traces powered by Affectiva. They also focussed on how the responses changed across five key regional footprints in the US: Northeast, West, Southeast, Southwest and Midwest, to highlight how where you live can have an impact on how you perceive ads.

One of the biggest takeaways, as many of the ads went for humor, is that jokes resonate very differently from region to region.

"When analyzing across markets, we found smiles first peaked when actor Forest Whitaker appeared and continued to rise as Harrison Ford’s dog entered the scene," said Terence Scroope, UnrulyEQ’s US solutions director, of Amazon Alexa’s "Not Everything Makes the Cut" spot. "Smiles began to dip during the space station scenes and picked back up the end when, in the ad, a massive delivery of dog food shows up on Harrison Ford’s doorstep."

This ad had the strongest humor profile of all spots analyzed, making 23 percent of viewers laugh. How funny audiences found it changed depending on where in the U.S. they lived, with the South finding it funnier than the West.

UnrulyEQ also found that the ad had a robust variety of emotional profiles, having one of the highest scores for amazement and happiness. Additionally, it had the very high brand metrics: desire to find out more (49 percent) and purchase intent (46 percent).

Read on for Scroope’s commentary of Unruly’s three other Super Bowl ads of choice.


Hyundai: The Elevator

Similar to Amazon, Hyundai had jokes running throughout their ad. However, lots of the jokes did not land as strongly throughout the markets we analyzed. Overall the ad evoked intense hilarity in 15 percent of viewers, which is an 11 percent difference from the U.S. norm.

Analyzing the smile trace, we saw viewers smiled throughout the ad, albeit at lower rates than the Amazon ad.

Interestingly, the jokes peaked differently between each market. The West Coast did not care for the "vegan dinner party" scenes, likely due to the prevalence of veganism in that region. Whereas the Southeast found these scenes funny and saw the highest level of smile traces throughout the entire video.

Viewers in the Northeast saw the most subdued of all the reactions, indicating that many viewers in this area of the U.S. did not find the ad as funny as the rest of the country. The peaks that it did see, while more subdued than the average, were around the root canal, middle seat and vegan dinner party scenes.


Devour: Food Porn

Food brand, Heinz’s Devour, was relatively unknown leading into the Super Bowl and had an uphill battle of brand recognition. Our analysis shows that their ad delivered in this area, and scored an average brand recall score of 68 percent,, with just three percent of viewers saying they couldn’t tell what brand was featured in the ad. This was achieved by Devour’s branding being shown on packaging at certain points of the ad, and the logo lingering on screen at the end of the commercial.

Out of the three ads competing for humor it scored the lowest at 12 percent, though still higher than the U.S. average of four percent. It also scored highly on negative emotions confusing 19 percent of viewers and evoking emotions of disgust (12 percent), and contempt (10 percent).

Arguably they are using disgust as a shock value but coupled with such high levels of confusion it might not have worked the way they wanted it to. Clearly, some viewers caught the subtext of what they were trying to communicate, but it was off-putting enough to drive a disgust level that was 25 percent higher than any other ad we tested.

The facial coding showed that viewers smiled throughout the video without any high peaks or valleys at any given time. The Northeast had a lower than average response, peaking during the scene when he’s caught watching the food porn and again during the ‘amateur’ scene. The Midwest also saw higher peaks during the amateur scene but at much higher levels. While the Southeast saw its lowest valleys during this same scene indicating that they did not find it as amusing as other areas of the U.S.


Bumble: The Ball is in Her Court

Bumble took a unique and different approach in terms of emotional profile than the other ads we analyzed by not focusing solely on hilarity. The ad evoked noticeable levels of intense inspiration (22 percent) and pride (15 percent) among viewers, considerably above the U.S. norm (10 percent and five percent respectively).

This was likely a direct result of using Serena Williams as the brand’s spokesperson, relating to her story of being a successful female athlete and conveying an empowering message for women to stand out and make the first move.

However, viewers of the Bumble commercial were slightly more confused compared to the U.S. norm. This is likely due to viewers being unfamiliar with the product. Ultimately, this likely inhibited the emotional response to the ad, which filtered through to brand metrics. 

Facial coding showed that audiences were most surprised in the Midwest when it was revealed that the ad was for Bumble, indicating that they were not expecting Serena Williams to be associated with the brand. The ad evoked more surprise overall in the West, dipping just before the brand was revealed, indicating that the buildup to the brand reveal was slightly too long.

When analyzing Southeast’s smile trace, it’s clear they were engaged early on during scenes when Williams was a young girl, but drops off throughout the rest of the ad.

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