NEW YORK (MainStreet) – With the Super Bowl less than two months away, advertisers are surely hoping to make the most of the approximately $3.5 million they’ll spend to air a 30-second ad during the game. So as they gear up to take their best shot at American consumers, they may want to consider what sorts of ads people actually like.

A good place to start is a new report by Nielsen, which takes a look at which ads from 2011 left the most positive impression on viewers. And the overall winner was indeed a Super Bowl commercial: Volkswagen’s “The Force” ad, which advertised the Volkswagen Passat by means of a little boy dressed as Darth Vader. The company has just announced that it will return to the Super Bowl in February with a 60-second ad for the 2012 Beetle, clearly hoping to recapture some of the magic that made “The Force” go viral.

Nielsen’s rankings are based on an ad’s “likability index,” which looks at the percentage of viewers who reported liking the ad “a lot” and then compares that to the average impression left by a new ad during that time period. Other ads that scored well for 2011 included another Super Bowl ad, a Doritos commercial extolling the virtue of the residual seasoning on the chips, a Target (Stock Quote: TGT) Halloween commercial, and a Pepsi ad featuring a litany of celebrities.

The rankings also tackled a more controversial advertising tactic: product placement (or what Nielsen tactfully refers to as “branded integration”). The rankings looked at various instances of brands being placed in popular TV shows, and assigned a “Recall Index” based on whether a viewer recalled the placement within 24 hours of seeing the TV show. Taking the top spot was this scene from the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, in which a character repeatedly invokes the brand name “Purell” in a way that actually make sense in context. Also making the top 10 was the placement of Subway in the NBC show Chuck.

The viewer responses were gathered through, a site that provides rewards to TV viewers in exchange for answering survey questions about what they’d watched in the last 24 hours.

Matt Brownell is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at, or follow him on Twitter @Brownellorama.