Remember Super Bowl LI you guys? It happened, at minimum, five days ago and of course Tom Brady won what was actually one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory. Football, however, is only one half of the Super Bowl Sunday coin. The other half are the 60 second celebrations of capitalism: the Super Bowl Commercials. Everyone has a list of favorites. Forbes has a list. Cracked has a video. But it is no longer politically correct in this Great country to hand out participation trophies, someone needs to decide who actually won the Advertisement Game.
To tackle (AHAHA) this question I turned to the infinite online data repository, Google Trends, which tracks online search traffic. Using a list of commercials compiled during the game (AKA I got zero bathroom breaks) I downloaded the relative search volume in the United States for each company/product relative to the first commercial I saw for Google Home. [Author’s note: Only commercials shown in Nebraska, before the 4th quarter when my stream was cut, are included]. Here’s an example of what that looked like:
!The search traffic for a product instantly increased when a commercial was shown! You can see exactly in which hour a commercial was shown based on the traffic spike. Using the traffic spike as ground zero, I added up search traffic 24 hours prior to and after the commercial to see if the ad significantly increased the public’s interest in the product.
Below is a plot of each commercial, with the percent of search traffic after the commercial on the vertical axis and the highest peak search volume on the horizontal. If you look closely you will see that some of them are labeled. If a point is below the dotted line the product had less search traffic after the commercial than before (not good).
On average 86% of products had more traffic after their Super Bowl ad than before it. But there are no participation trophies in the world of marketing and the clear winner is 84 Lumber. Damn. They are really in a league of their own (another sports reference!). Almost no one was searching for them before the Super Bowl but oh boy was everyone searching for them afterwards. They used the ole only-show-half-of-a-commercial trick where you need to see what happens next but can only do that by going to their website. Turns out its a construction supplies company
Pizza Hut had a pretty large spike during their commercial, but it actually was not their largest search volume of the night. Turns out most people are searching for pizza BEFORE the Super Bowl. Stranger Things 2 also drew a lot of searches for obvious reason. We all love making small children face existential Lovecraftian horrors.
Other people loved the tightly-clad white knight Mr. Clean and his sensual mopping moves. The Fate of the Furious commercial drew lots of searches, most likely of people trying to decipher WTF the plot is about. Finally there was the lovable Avocados from Mexico commercial. No one was searching for Avocados from Mexico before the Super Bowl, but now, like, a couple of people are searching for them. Win.
So congratulations 84 Lumber on your victory in the Advertisement Game. I’m sure this will set a dangerous precedent for the half-ads in Super Bowl LII.
“And I’m like ‘Honestly, I don’t know nothing about mopeds’” -Macklemore
Mopeds are a thing. A thing that exists. A thing that has had approximately zero influence on my life. People in Europe drive mopeds, people in America drive literally anything else. But then I watched the music video of Macklemore’s & Ryan Lewis’s new song “Downtown.” The video begins with Macklemore naively purchasing a moped which he proceeds to ride around the ‘Downtown’ for the remainder of the video.
“Oh yeah mopeds, those exist” I thought, and headed to Google to see if a moped is right for me [Spoiler: It is not]. But then I wondered how many other people were similarly inspired to dive into the fabulous(?) world of mopeds.
Google, of “Don’t be Evil” fame, obviously tracks every search performed on its site and the aggregated data is available through Google Trends. Below is the Google Trends plot for the search term “moped” from 2004 - present in the United States. An interactive version of this plot can be found here.
The most prominent feature is the large spike in the summer of 2008. When the financial crisis hit people were thinking of ditching their Hummers and opting for something that gets 70 mpg. What is curious is that this was not a persistent trend, even though people were supposedly strapped for cash for the next few years of the recession. Everyone did their moped research in 2008 and decided that mopeds were not for them. Conversely, everyone bought a moped in 2008 and they all still have them and have no need to ever search for anything moped related. Anecdotally, the number of mopeds I see is still approximately none so I will choose to believe the former.
Because Google Trends only displays relative search numbers, and the 2008 spike was such a huge outlier, I chose to rerun the analysis from December 2008 until the present to achieve greater “resolution” to answer the question of interest. Explicitly, how has “Downtown” affected searches for mopeds?
Because searches for mopeds are cyclical, we can average these to get an idea of how Macklemore’s song has deviated interest in mopeds. Here is a plot of the average number of relative moped searches by month (bold). Each individual year is also shown, with 2015 highlighted in red.
As you can see, 2015 has been a bit below average, but there was a small increase at the end of the month in August, which is when “Downtown” was released (indicated as a dotted line). Then in September, instead of dramatically plunging as Fall approaches, the number of searches for mopeds stayed relatively stable. September’s search traffic scored a 74, almost 17 points higher than the average for this time of year, and statistically different than the mean. More people than usual are actually looking for mopeds because of this ridiculous song.
There is no way to know if this increase in traffic will actually lead to more mopeds on the streets, especially when Winter is Coming. Nevertheless there appears to be a causal relationship between this song and moped searches. As “Downtown” continues to rise in the BillBoard Top 100 (it has only been on there since the September third and is currently sitting at number 16 at the time of writing) the last question we have to ask ourselves is: How much is Big Moped paying Macklemore?
Click Below to Watch the “Downtown” Music Video.