With the big game officially in the rear-view mirror, the postmortem is well under way. If you’re looking for an analysis of how a Super Bowl team can blow a massive lead in a very short period of time, stop reading now. Instead, we’re going to take a look at data pertaining to this year’s advertisements and make some observations about what it may mean going forward. Of particular interest is the use of hashtags versus URLs within big game advertisements.

As it has for several years, Marketing Land conducted an interesting analysis of various aspects of the 2017 big game advertising line-up. Marketing Land writes:

Hashtags were in 30 percent of Super Bowl 51 ads, down significantly from 45 percent last year. More ads used URLs than hashtags for the first time since Marketing Land has measured them, 41 percent in all. Twitter barely beat Facebook and Instagram as the most-mentioned social network, though neither was explicitly mentioned often.

So, what to make of the significant decline in hashtag use within the ads? What about the notable increase in URL use?

To me, there are two likely causes for such a shift.

One, it’s no secret that Twitter continues to struggle with overall usage and new user acquisition. Before continuing, a bit of history: Chris Messina essentially married the concept of a hashtag with Twitter roughly a decade ago. All that being said, it stands to reason that with user growth seemingly stalled, Super Bowl advertisers would begin to move away from including a hashtag in advertising given how focused hashtags have been on Twitter.

An alternative reason could simply be the slow, steady maturation of social media. Sure, hashtags can make for a great naming convention for a campaign or a simple way to organize conversations around a specific topic. However, as social media matures, many brands are focused on driving conversions vs. sparking conversation. Don’t get me wrong, both are important and have their places within the marketing arsenal. But, if you’re buying advertising in the biggest of forums, it does feel like a logical objective to try to drive people to take action (via clicking on a URL) vs. to talk (via a branded hashtag). The really interesting data, which we’ll likely never get to see in aggregate publicly, is what type of traffic a Super Bowl advertisement can drive to a website. If significant, the re-targeting possibilities are endless.

What do you think – why the rise in URL usage and decline in hashtag use within Super Bowl ads this year?