UA Marketing Experts Pick Their Favorite Ads From Super Bowl

Feb. 6, 2017

UA Marketing Experts Pick Their Favorite Ads From Super Bowl

Five from the University share their insights about the power and popularity of some of this year's commercials from the big game.

More than 114 million TV viewers tuned into Sunday's Super Bowl, perhaps as many of them for the ever-anticipated commercials as the game itself.

With this year's Super Bowl ads costing a whopping $5 million for 30 seconds, advertisers pulled out all the stops to reach the large national crowd, with some being more successful than others.

University of Arizona marketing experts weighed in on their favorite ads.

Assistant professor of marketing, Eller College of Management

What was your favorite ad? 
My favorite ad was the Budweiser immigrant ad. In some ways, it's a throwback to their ads from 30 years ago. Budweiser rose to prominence in the 1980s by saluting the common American working man. As economic conditions were becoming worse for the working class, Budweiser's message to these customers was "You make America work" and "This Bud's for you." Their ads featured Americans in different occupations and of different ethnicities. Some even featured immigrant workers seeking an opportunity to attain the American dream.

What made it effective?
Showing an immigrant working hard to become an American wasn't controversial or partisan in the 1980s, but today it is. Budweiser's ad is a reminder that the American dream, in all of its idealized glory, has always included immigrants. Although there is a chance that the ad will repel some of the beer's existing customers, resulting in lower short-term profits or sales, the ad will contribute to the brand's equity by strengthening its cultural meaning. If you believe that businesses should have a purpose beyond making money — and I hope that you do — then this ad has the potential to help Budweiser cut across political lines to become a symbol of integration, inclusiveness and opportunity for all people who hold America's values, regardless of where they were born.

Any additional insights about this year's advertisements you'd like to share? 
I also want to note the "Eco Warrior" Kia ad featuring Melissa McCarthy, as it is a perfect example of how not to use humor. The ad itself is hilarious and I think that customers will like and remember it. But because of the way the ad creates humor, I suspect many will not remember or like the brand in the ad. In this ad, the humor comes from Melissa McCarthy's crazy adventures. The brand is only featured in the non-humorous interludes between the funny parts. As a result, customers are more likely to remember McCarthy's funny mishaps trying to save the environment than to remember the car that transported her there. Even if customers remember the brand, they may not like it.

Not all ways of creating humor are equally likely to lead to favorable impressions of the brand. Generally, ads that create humor by showing severely bad things happening to specific people — in this case, Melissa McCarthy and environmentalists — lead to less favorable brand attitudes than ads that create humor using less edgy and more inclusive comedy — absurdities, wordplay, etc. Moreover, humor also signals that something is not as important — in this case suggesting that environmentalism is a joke — which could risk alienating its target market of drivers who want to be eco-friendly.

Adjunct instructor of marketing, Eller College of Management; adjunct lecturer of communication, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

What was your favorite ad? 
Airbnb was an excellent ad. It was simple, with great production value. The simplicity made the ad powerful. The timeliness of the issue of immigration tied the ad into an important emotional issue. The Budweiser ad, when Anheuser and Busch meet, was another excellent creative execution. Budweiser has done a fabulous job over the years with creative commercials.

What made these ads effective?
Simplicity, clarity, creativity and emotional clarity.

Any additional insights about this year's advertisements? 
Most of the creative production on these national commercials started almost a year in advance, or at least six months out. Creative directors and creative producers try to come up with something that is universally appealing, funny or creative so that everyone will enjoy. The great creative minds of the 1950s and 1960s, including David Ogilvy, Rosser Reeves, Leo Burnett and Bill Bernbach, among others, stressed that simplicity in creativity is how to connect. But some of the commercials this year just tried too hard to be funny or to be clever. There were not as many creative ads.

You have developed a rating scale for Super Bowl commercials based on the ADDY American Advertising Federation's judging criteria. Can you explain your rating and how this year's ads fared? 
The zero-to-10 score is a composite of the five elements of the AAF criteria, which is based on breakthrough, focus, differentiation, relevance and action. A 10 is a superb commercial, and a zero is a terrible commercial. Forcing creativity sometimes can result in a flat response. That's what makes the AirBnB and Budweiser commercials so good — they have simplicity and they connect on an emotional level. Ironically, they also tap into the current political issue of immigration and the strength of our country, and the political discussion that has ensued. I do not believe that any of the ads this year are iconic, like Apple's "1984" or Volkswagen's "Darth Vader" or some of the great commercials of past years.

UA associate vice president for marketing and brand management

What was your favorite ad? 
The John Malkovich Squarespace commercial.

What made it effective?
Humor is hard to pull off. But so many try because it is arresting. Watching one of the most decorated and prolific living actors — one who actually has a movie about being him — struggle to get his domain name back from a hobby fisherman is funny, compelling and crystal clear about Squarespace's brand promise.

Any additional insights about this year's advertisements? 
At the price of a national broadcast Super Bowl ad, you'd expect every moment to have the product onscreen and direct calls to actions — on sale, buy now, limited time offer. But you almost never see that. Instead, companies focus on brand values. Audi's ad focuses on equality, Ford's on innovation and Honda's on chasing dreams. They focus right in on the values of their customer. Bud Light is targeting millennials' Achilles' heel — fear of missing out (FOMO) — while the Mercedes ad uses Peter Fonda to tell baby boomers that they can own a luxury car and not be what they abhorred as teens: selling out. Sophisticated brands focus on values because people buy based on emotion and connect to brands that share their values. Consumers pursue products and services, not the other way around. Consumers are too savvy to be sold on something they don't want.

Director SAEM/AISS Marketing, Student Affairs & Enrollment Management and Academic Initiatives & Student Success

What was your favorite ad?
Mr. Clean. Why? It caught the viewers' attention immediately. Lots of buzz around it. I also liked Febreze, which tied their product to the event — halftime break — in a humorous, clever way.

What made it effective?
Mr. Clean took a product that some viewers may not have even been aware of and updated it, working in love and romance, via dirty dancing with the mop. It's "sticky," too — this is not a situation where people liked the ad but can't remember the product.

Any additional insights about this year's advertisements? 
This was the year of the social message. Try as they might, I don't think brands could avoid a nod to many of the issues — immigration, women's rights, environmental concerns — in today's news. And I fully admit a bias toward anything that features Melissa McCarthy's many gifts.

Director of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing and PetSmart Professor of Practice, John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

What was your favorite ad? 
The Mercedes ad with Peter Fonda.

What made it effective?
I find several things effective about the commercial. An important element of a commercial is whether it connects to the target audience well. This particular car, the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster, is priced around $125,000. As a result, the target audience is most likely going to be in the baby boomer generation, as they would be the generation with the disposable income for such a vehicle. Given that it is a roadster, it likely will also appeal to men over women. Second, the selection of the song "Born to Be Wild," by Steppenwolf, and the small but key role played by Peter Fonda — who starred in the 1969 film "Easy Rider," which featured this song — would collectively appeal to this audience. So, from an emotional appeal, you have several positive associations: the movie, the song, the actor and the emotional appeal of the car itself. The appearance of Peter Fonda at the end of the commercial also allows for some tension to build but to be answered cleverly as this movie/song/actor connection is made very suddenly but pleasantly at the end.

Any additional insights about this year's advertisements? 
I kept track of some other interesting facts about the commercials:

  • There were a total of 113 commercials from the national anthem through to the end of the overtime.
  • After entertainment-related commercials, which largely were Fox programs, services were the top promoted category, with 15 percent of the commercials. Automobile- related commercials were second, with 11.5 percent of all commercials.
  • Google had the most individual commercials with four. Three of the top cell-phone services each had two commercials — T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint. AT&T did not have a commercial.
  • Slightly more than 37 percent of the commercials used a celebrity.