By Anjali Athavaley and Melissa Fares
NEW YORK (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc's Doritos brand and Allstate Corp's Esurance unit were early winners on social media in the annual high-stakes battle of Super Bowl commercials.
The Doritos ad, which featured a man crunching on chips while his wife gets an ultrasound, prompted 140,040 posts associated with the brand on Twitter in the first quarter, the most around any brand advertising during the game, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence, a marketing technology company.
Meanwhile Esurance, which opted for a spot before kickoff, drew 221,319 tweets thanks to the company's push on social media to promote a sweepstakes under the hashtag #EsuranceSweepstakes.
Companies paid up to a record $5 million for 30 seconds during the championship game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers on CBS Corp's flagship network.
Actress Mindy Kaling tweeted, "That Doritos ad was chilling."
PepsiCo had less luck with its Mountain Dew ad, which featured a creature that was part puppy, part monkey and part baby that appears in the apartment of three men and hands them some Mountain Dew Kickstart.
The hashtag #puppymonkeybaby was trending on Twitter minutes before halftime, but according to Amobee, of the 31,365 tweets about Mountain Dew, a majority were negative or neutral.
The ad came across as “weird,” said Jim Joseph, chief integrated marketing officer at communications and public relations agency Cohn & Wolfe. He said that people were generally underwhelmed by ads this year.
One of the most popular ads was by carmaker Audi featuring the song "Starman" by the recently deceased David Bowie. “That one really resonated," Joseph said.
The Super Bowl ad battle starts weeks before the game when brands post commercials or shorter teasers online. This year’s spots were viewed more than 374 million times before kickoff, according to iSpot.tv, a company that tracks video plays and social media comments.
Some brands also ran teasers for the Super Bowl commercials on television. Anheuser Busch InBev SA's Bud Light spent $5 million, according to iSpot, to air and ad featuring comedian Amy Schumer and actor Seth Rogen preparing for a political rally, putting on lotion and Spanx underwear. It had aired 589 times on national television before the game, iSpot said.
At least 40 celebrities including Helen Mirren, Christopher Walken and Kevin Hart were slated to appear this year in Super Bowl commercials, surpassing 27 last year.
Minutes before halftime, Ryan Reynolds, Steve Harvey and Kevin Hart were all trending on Twitter.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Rigby)