Super Bowl ads: Tears (Budweiser), jeers (Nationwide), positivity (Coke)

Super Bowl ads: Tears (Budweiser), jeers (Nationwide), positivity (Coke)
Nationwide's "Make Safe Happen" commercial during the Super Bowl drew some criticism. (Nationwide / YouTube)

Emotions ran high during the Super Bowl on Sunday, and not just because of the last-minute Patriots-Seahawks on-field drama.

Game-day ads had viewers buzzing on social media with tears of joy, confusion or just plain boredom.


"Most of the Super Bowl ads tugged at the heartstrings of viewers, attempting to send a particular message," said Sean Muller, chief executive of the ad tracking firm

But that wasn't necessarily what audiences wanted. An estimated 51% of Americans think of the Super Bowl as a social event or entertainment spectacle versus a sporting event, according to a survey conducted by communications firm Burson-Marsteller and strategic consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland. Look at just millennials, and that number rises to about 55%.

Based on's preliminary findings Sunday, viewers saw a mix of boring and great ads.

"People really wanted to be entertained," Muller said. "They wanted funny ads … but were getting a healthy dosage of emotional and sometimes depressing ones."

Budweiser won the love of Super Bowl viewers with its "Lost Dog" commercial. A yellow lap puppy gets separated from his human and horse best friend, and the "#bestbuds" search for the dog throughout the spot as a cover of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" plays in the background.

"It's about friendship, it has cute animals and a great song," Muller said. "At the end of the day, it's well executed.

"Budweiser has become synonymous with Super Bowl advertising. People expect [this quality] every year now."

The ad has been played online 17.9 million times, according to, and immediately after the game, it had already been mentioned on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more than half a million times.

Wrote one Twitter user: "Did I really just cry watching that puppy in that #Budweiserpuppy commercial?" Added another: "Sheddin' a man tear #Budweiserpuppy."

The Nationwide insurance company's commercial also sparked buzz on social media — mostly because of a message deemed morbid. The ad featured a young boy after he had been kissed by a girl for the first time and was flying through the air. But then the young boy reveals that he actually drowned in a bathtub and never lived any of those moments.

"Nationwide: We're not saying your kid is gonna die, but you better buy our insurance," one Twitter user wrote.

An image of the young boy in the commercial even went viral, with the text reading, "I won't watch Katy Perry because I died in a depressing Nationwide commercial."

Despite some downers, Muller said positivity was definitely the theme among this year's ad crop.

Dove, Toyota and Nissan saluted dads in their emotional spots.


Coke's #makeithappy campaign focused on making the Internet a happier place. McDonald's spots featured customers "paying with lovin'" instead of money. And Always promoted "likeagirl," a commercial encouraging people to redefine the phrase as something positive.

"America in general wants to be positive about its present state and its future," Muller said. "It makes people feel good. It's definitely a good message for brands to send out."