The Super Bowl is always fun for those of us that work in advertising: it is the one time of year that the advertising is just as, if not more, interesting than the programming it is interrupting. And last night was no different. The difference this year was the interactions requested and that occurred online as a result of the commercials that were airing on television. Regardless of your team affiliation or which commercial you thought was best or worst, it was social media and online engagements that really won in the “bowls” of last night.

About half of Super Bowl commercials included a hashtag to try to spark ongoing conversation online after their $4 million spot aired. And it worked for a lot of the brands. As each commercial played, you could see it become a “trending topic” on Twitter from the Taco Bell “Viva Young” to “Montana Stain” to “Dodge” and “Paul Harvey.” People were definitely talking about the ads online and setting new records doing it. Oreo’s “Whisper Fight” commercial had a call to action to take a side on Instagram. Their Instagram following grew from 2,200 to well over 30,000 during game time. According to Twitter, there were 24.1 million Tweets about the game and halftime show (not including the Tweets about advertising). By the beginning of the second half, the volume of Tweets had already surpassed last year’s Tweet total.

The moments generating the biggest peaks of Twitter conversation (measured in Tweets per minute, or TPM) during the game:

  • Power outage: 231,500 TPM
  • 108-yard kickoff return for Ravens TD by Jones: 185,000 TPM
  • Clock expires; Ravens win: 183,000 TPM
  • Jones catches 56 yard pass for Ravens TD (end of 2nd quarter): 168,000 TPM
  • Gore TD for 49ers: 131,000 TPM

But let’s get back to the advertising during the game, because we know that’s what we were all really watching and talking about. According to Brand Bowl, the social media winners (based on a combination of number of Tweets and sentiment of Tweets) were as follows:

  • VW was the overall winner (combo of Tweets and sentiment) with 86,616 Tweets
  • Bud Light “Lucky Chair” was the most talked about with 86,680 Tweets
  • Taco Bell “Viva Young” as the most liked with the highest positive sentiment score and 56,892 Tweets

Overall, there were 670,962 Tweets related to brands and their advertisements.

Some may be surprised that there was this much conversation online given that practically all of the Super Bowl 2013 ads were pre-released online, with the exception of a few who advertisers who held off and implemented “teaser ads” to generate user interest. However, that pre-conversation only helped to spur the in-game conversation. Especially since it appeared that the overall strategies and themes revolved around user engagement and asking people to participate online in some way.

User participation ads this year represent roughly a fifth of the total 36 Super Bowl advertisers included user participation that involved heavy social media and crowd sourcing. From Coke asking consumers to choose their favorite ending and Pepsi asking for fan photos that will appear during the Pepsi Halftime show, to Audi asking viewers to share their brave moments, Doritos wanting consumers to pick which ad should run on Super Bowl Sunday, and Toyota asking consumers to share their wish on Twitter, it is apparent that advertising is progressively shifting towards social media and crowd sourcing. TV advertisers who do not integrate internet relevancy and social media campaigns stand a great chance of losing leverage and compromising the brand.

The bottom line is that talking about the commercials online was just as popular as watching them during the game. And I sat by myself at a Super Bowl party with my computer in my lap, proving this theory.

You would never know I was actually at a party considering the way I glued myself to the computer screen during the game/commercials.