Tip Sheet: 2016 Super Bowl Ads

WHY YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN MOST SUPER BOWL ADS—Brands hoping to create buzz with Super Bowl advertising must start well before kick-off, says Harlan (Lanny) Spotts, a professor of marketing at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., who has studied social media engagement with Super Bowl ads. “Consumers who experience advertising before the game are more likely to be engaged in the advertising when it airs, participating in social media after the game,” he says. His research found the majority of “buzz” about brands’ commercials happens in the week prior to the game and drops precipitously by the third day after the big game. The study also found that commercials that are both memorable and well-liked—rather than one or the other—generated the most post-game buzz.

CONTACT: (413) 782-1280, harlan.spotts@wne.edu.

CARS, FOODS AND, HOPEFULLY, NO TEARS—Karen Mishra, assistant professor of marketing at the Meredith College School of Business, says she expects the Super Bowl ads to stick to the classic, upbeat commercials fans expect. The Ad Age Super Bowl Chart points to cars and food dominating the 2016 Super Bowl, closely followed by business and consumer services. But after the reaction to last year’s more depressing ads, Mishra thinks advertisers will keep it light. "Ideally, none of those will be the downer services such as life insurance for dying children, we saw last year,” she says. "The Super Bowl is supposed to be an upbeat, happy occasion where football fans gather with family and friends to watch their favorite teams and eat fun food. Even non-football fans gather to check out the latest TV commercials."

Mishra also sees the Super Bowl as a good opportunity for one company in particular to make amends. After Chipotle’s ongoing E. coli and norovirus battles, she says, the company “has some explaining to do.” "The best way to get back on its feet would be to make the investment in a Super Bowl ad and apologize. The CEO, Steve Ells, should be in the commercial himself, apologizing for the continued problems plaguing Chipotle and telling the public what he is going to do to solve them,” she says. "This public apology will go a long way to restoring trust and loyalty in his brand."

CONTACT: mishraka@meredith.edu or (919) 760-8620.

WHY TO ENTERTAIN IS NOT ENOUGH—Jayanthi Rajan, professor of marketing at Albright College in Reading, Pa., says that even at $4 million or more per spot, brands still line up for a Super Bowl spot, and with good reason: she says last year, a record average of 112.2 million viewers tuned in. But to make good use of that spot, brands need to focus on more than just entertainment value.

"The Super Bowl provides a great venue for brands to generate awareness in an age where media audiences are fragmented. However, when investing in a Super Bowl ad, marketers should bear in mind that being entertaining is only one part of the brand success story," she says. "In the last couple years, success of a Super Bowl ad is not measured by the audience that watches the commercial, but by how it plays into their life before, during and after the event, through social media."

Rajan says some key ingredients to success have been:

"It is going to be about how viewers are engaged with their devices and social media platforms in amplifying the Super Bowl ad, so it is going to be about the buzz generated!” she says, adding that it’s up to the brands to define what “success” means for them.

CONTACT: jrajan@albright.edu 

DIVERSITY AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ADS—Mary Liz Brooks, Assistant Professor of Communications at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., sees diversity and socially responsible ads as trends we can expect for the Super Bowl ads this year. Diversity in sports had a historic year in 2015: Olympic icon Caitlyn Jenner brought transgenderism into the spotlight, the NFL hired the first female assistant coach, and more professional sports athletes are revealing their sexual identities. "I believe we will see more commercials showcase the diversity of the U.S., including the representation of various cultures, ages, sex/gender, and ability,” she says. "Society wants to see more realistic people in advertising, and I believe the Super Bowl commercials will continue to embrace and showcase that desire.” Brooks also expects we will see more socially responsible advertising that empowers and accepts groups of people instead of mocking or ostracizing them, particularly stereotypes of the LGBT community, women, and an aging population. "We will see more ads that strive to empower, rather than tear us down,” she says.

CONTACT: brooksm@susqu.edu

HOW GOOD ADS ARE LIKE SHAKESPEAREAN PLAYS—Keith A. Quesenberry, assistant professor of marketing at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., says that the Super Bowl ads that succeed follow a familiar, five-step pattern, and it’s the same one high school English classes teach students to find in Hamlet. His research analyzed two years’ worth of Super Bowl ads and found that beyond any other characteristic, the likability of a commercial was this five-act story: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement, or resolution. And all of this can fit into a 30-second spot.

"Today’s celebrity or fad may be gone tomorrow,” says Quesenberry. "For marketers who want to be heard above all the 50th Anniversary buzz of this year's Super Bowl, tell a story."

CONTACT: kquesenberry@messiah.edu  

THE QUESTIONS ADVERTISERS SHOULD BE ASKING—While most people will remember what ads they liked and which were their favorites, some people will forget what the ads they liked were actually for, and that's one problem advertisers need to address, says David Hagenbuch, professor of marketing at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and founder of MindfulMarketing.org. Instead of asking if the ad is likable, with over $4 million for 30 seconds of air time, advertisers should be asking if the ad is effective. with over 114 million people watching the ads, though, a second important question is whether the ad is ethical. His Mindfulness Matrix takes these questions into account.

“As you watch this year’s Super Bowl, try asking how likely each ad is to: 1) serve as effective marketing communication for the advertiser and its target market, and 2) uphold societal values like decency, fairness, honesty, respect, and stewardship,” says Hagenbuch. "Hopefully more advertisers also will act upon these questions, making for more Mindful Super Bowl ads."

CONTACT: dhagenbu@messiah.edu; (717) 877-6352 (cell)

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