Black Friday Ads Go Viral – How This Year’s Best Brands and Commercials Drove Digital ROI

Holiday ads debut as early as September, but it’s the week of Black Friday when things start to heat up. With the ever-increasing prevalence of online sales, creating TV ads that grab viewers’ attention and get them to engage across screens has become more important than ever.

Sony Pictures, Amazon, Apple, Old Navy, and Sprite launched campaigns that didn’t just appear on TV screens — they went viral — driving the highest numbers of TV-related searches, social engagements, and online views of any ads.

Stretch Your Media Dollars

All of these brands were able to dominate the digital space thanks to their commercial airings. Sony snagged the coveted title of most digitally engaging ad with its ‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’ movie trailer. Despite the ad airing for only one day and appearing only on Nickelodeon, it proved that strategic placements matter, with a digital wake that outperformed all other ads with a spend that was $2 million below that of second runner-up, Amazon.

Sony Pictures, who came in first, and Sprite, who came in fifth place, were the real victors of the bargain shopping season, snagging spots in the top five on incredibly small budgets.

Keeping It Weird

Sprite served up holiday magic in their ad, ‘Lil Yachty Is in an Ice Cave Singing a Song About Sprite.’ In it, LeBron James and rapper Lil Yachty combine forces, becoming the fifth most digitally engaging ad of Black Friday week on an estimated spend of only $28K, the most cost-effective commercial to make this year’s list. This bizarrely funny commercial, boosted by star power and strategic placements within the comedy genre – The Wayans Brothers, Tower Heist, The Croods, and Clueless – had an overwhelmingly positive sentiment (96%) and drove over 900K online views.

Unconventional Ad Formats

Apple, coming in third, was by far the biggest spender of all the Black Friday ad winners. In a rather unconventional format, the tech giant introduced an old friend in a lovable new way in ‘Frankie’s Holiday’ with three different creative variations. The shortest variation was a full 60 seconds and the longest, which received the most airings and spend, was two minutes long and aired exclusively during NFL Football.

Playing the Airings Game

Amazon and Old Navy, who placed second and fourth, took a different approach, reeling high digital engagement numbers by employing an airings-heavy strategy. With 251 airings of ‘Old Friends’ and 250 airings of ‘Fight Night,’ respectively, these spots on average aired 7 times more than the other spots on this year’s list.

Ready for more? Download our Holiday Season: Strategic Media Planning Report to uncover the winning media strategies of two of the season’s largest retail giants.


The Top 5 Most Engaging Ads of Black Friday

(11/21/2016 – 11/25/2016)


1. Sony Pictures, ‘Smurfs: The Lost Village’

8.78% Digital Share of Voice*

0.02% Spend Share of Voice**

8.49 Share of Voice Index***


2. Amazon, ‘Old Friends’

7.19% Digital Share of Voice

0.28% Spend Share Of Voice

4.67 Share of Voice Index


3. Apple, ‘Frankie’s Holiday’

3.76% Digital Share of Voice

0.89% Spend Share Of Voice

2.08 Share of Voice Index


4. Old Navy, ‘Fight Night: 50 Percent Off’

3.46% Digital Share of Voice

0.15% Spend Share Of Voice

4.57 Share of Voice Index


5. Sprite, ‘Lil Yachty Is in an Ice Cave Singing a Song About Sprite’

3.43% Digital Share of Voice

<0.01% Spend Share Of Voice

10.00 Share of Voice Index


*Digital Share of Voice: The percentage of earned digital activity across search, social and online views generated by the spot compared to all other ads.

** Spend Share of Voice: The percentage of estimated spend of a specific ad(s) or brand(s) as compared to all others.

*** Share of Voice Index: A performance metric that compares digital engagement with spend to determine spot efficiency.


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