Blowouts in a blowout: Super Bowl advertising revisited

February 4, 2014

A post by Priya Raghubir

We look forward to Super Bowl advertising almost as much as the game itself. Every year the price of a 30 second spot goes up. Every year we have post-game lists of the best and worst ads. And every year ads that combine humor, kids, animals, and sex dominate the “most memorable” list as companies try to leverage social media to create a buzz — the so-called water cooler effect. Pre-game teasers are more common all the time, even pre-releases of ads on Youtube

So what works? To be effective, ads must be remembered. Creative execution can both help and, counter-intuitively, hurt. While the Doberhuahua had everyone laughing, how many remember the product, Audi? While we remember the bear in a grocery store, what did it do for sales of Oikos Chobani? While the clever 15-second “bookmarks” of Colbert around a different 30-second ad leaves us thinking of pistachios, how may remember the brand?

Effective ads need to break through the clutter. But how? Some approaches:

  • The “aaaawww” factor: kids, animals, love, sex and humor.
  • Length: longer ads with a different tone that make one think are a risky strategy, but one that can be effective.
  • Celebrities: especially when they are likableconsistent with the brand message, and attract attention — even if they’re controversial. But this can backfire if the celeb’s image is inconsistent with the brand’s. Bob Dylan selling American cars? Puh-lease!
  • Branding: the brand has to be central. Cheerios‘ understated ad did a wonderful job at drawing “aaaawwww” from 1-2-3-4 Cheerios. Wholesome and simple, just like the brand promise.

Beyond the ad are placement and context. The first set of ads in the first pod are much more likely to be remembered then the rest. Why? People have been waiting for the first ad break and pay close attention to what they see.  This year the fourth quarter was a write-off, as an expected close game turned into a rout.  Two of the most creative ads aired in this pod (Bud’s “Puppy Love” and Doritos.) Microsoft’s ad was long on emotional content but likely short on viewers, with the score at 43-8.

All of this matters, but the most important factor is continuity. Continuity across time, across within and across Super Bowls. Repetition works, and not just in class. One ad doesn’t make a brand, something the young entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley learned the hard way in the 1990s. It’s lesson Anheuser Busch has used successfully, whether you think Lily the Llama was a highlight or lowlight. I predict that by this time next year, you’ll be asking: “Are you up for what’s next?”


One Response to “Blowouts in a blowout: Super Bowl advertising revisited”

  1. J.St.Clair Says:

    What are you saying……all i noticed was cars/cars/cars….violent movies (aka “security/fear”)….muppets/animals(aka pet food stores&house dependents)

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