Janet Jackson take note: Sex and the Super Bowl don't mix. At least, they didn't this year, according to a TiVo study of the most-replayed commercials in Sunday's game. None of the cheesecake-flavored ads (notably two GoDaddy commercials featuring busty exhibitionists, and a Motorola ad with Megan Fox shooting photos of herself in the bathtub) made the top 10 list.
Instead, the top sex symbol was eighty-something Betty White, whogot tackled in a touch football game in a Snickers ad (No. 2). The most nudity in any of the top 10 ads came in a CareerBuilder.com commercial that showed overstuffed employees wandering the office in their underwear on Casual Friday (No. 8). And the most-replayed ad of all was downright puritanical, with a little boy warning a suitor to keep hands off his mom and his Doritos.
"You don't see the supermodel 18-year-old in a bikini on this list," said Todd Juenger, TiVo's vice president for audience research. "I don't know if it's fair to reach the conclusion that that's over -- those kind of ads have done well in the past, and a GoDaddy ad was No. 1 last year -- but what worked this year was somewhat different."
The ad ranking was based on the DVR activity of an anonymous sample of about 45,000 of TiVo's three million subscribers. (Full disclosure: I write a Guru Guide for TiVo, a weekly collection of TV best bets.) It is not, strictly speaking, a list of the most-watched commercials -- the number of viewers is highly influenced by the time the ad aired. Rather, it reflects which ads engaged viewers the most, measured in terms of how many times they were rewound and replayed.
"It offers a great insight on which commercials resonated the best," said Juenger. "That's very different than which one was the most popular."
And what resonated the most was humor. From a mock sportscast of a 50-year-old Brett Favre trying to decide whether to retire after the 2020 Super Bowl (Hyundai Sonata, No. 10) to a jealous baby slagging her boyfriend's new romantic interest as a "milkoholic" (E*Trade, No. 6), viewers went for what made them laugh rather than pant.
"This list is the complete antithesis of Hollywood-glamor-young-pretty-stars-highly produced commercials," Juenger said. In fact, Doritos, which uses commercials made and submitted by viewers rather ad agencies,is consistently one of the top performers in the TiVo study. It's had one or two ads on the list every year since 2007, and this time had two of the top four. (No. 4 included a vengeful dog strapping an anti-barking collar on his owner, then swiping the guy's Doritos as well.)
Some other interesting points:
** Though Tim Tebow's pro-family ad was considerably less fiery than the pregame hype suggested -- its supposed anti-abortion message consisted of a single ambiguous sentence spoken by Tebow's mother, "He almost didn't make it into this world" -- the controversy no doubt had a lot to do with it making No. 3 on the list.
** Perennial Super Bowl advertising champ Anheuser Busch had just one ad on the list, a Bud Light commercial in which scientists who discover a comet is about to strike the Earth respond by breaking out the beer (No. 7). And it probably got a big boost from its placement following the No. 1 Doritos ad.
** Nine of the 10 top commercials aired during the first half. (The exception: E*Trade's talking babies.) "I don't know whether that means the ads were better in the first half, or that once the game got more intense in the second half, people were less likely to dwell on the commercials," said Juenger.
** The most startling commercial -- a CBS promo for David Letterman's late-night show that showed him at a sullen Super Bowl party with his twin nemeses Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno -- isn't included on the TiVo list, which is only for paid advertisements. But if it were eligible, Juenger said, the Letterman promo would have been No. 2.
** The Who's halftime show put up similar numbers to Bruce Springsteen's 2009 performance -- but the Who audience started big, then steadily declined.
** Oh yeah -- the football game. Most replayed moment, no surprise, was the Tracy Porter interception that clinched the game for the Saints. Second: Peyton Manning's potential touchdown throw into the end zone in the final moments that ended in an offensive pass interference call.The top 10:
1. Doritos -- House Rules
2. Snickers -- You're Not You When You're Hungry
3. Focus on the Family -- The Tebows Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life
4. Doritos -- Underdog
5. 2010 Intel Core Processors -- Jeoffrey the Robot Gets Hurt
6. E*Trade Financial -- Baby Love Triangle
7. Bud Light -- Observatory
8. CareerBuilder -- Casual Fridays
9. TruTV's NFL Full Contact -- Punxsutawney Polamalu
10. Hyundai Sonata -- Brett Favre MVP and Still Playing at 50
(By the way, if that chart up on top is hard to read, click on it for a larger pop-up version.)