The ‘not so’ Big Game

I just wanted to highlight the top lines of the study performed by Will Burns, CEO of Ideasicle. He wanted to dig deeper into the TV ad bigger event of the year. No one ever talks about advertising effectiveness when reviewing Super Bowl spots. We talk about likability all day long, but not effectiveness. The ABX Index, from USA Today and analysed with Burns, measured all of the Super Bowl spots the two elements – effectiveness and likability – to understand the real perspective of spending so much money during the Big Game.


The first thing that jumps out is that likability is not as correlated to effectiveness. There are very effective ads that ranked below average in likability. And very likable ads that scored poorly on effectiveness.

A few years ago, Burns wrote a post about the “aftermarket” for Super Bowl spots, “The Marketing Power Of The Super Bowl.” In it, he writes about how important likability is in getting the buzz before, during, and after the Super Bowl. A likable spot gets lots of unpaid attention, stretching that sizable media placement fee to a nearly manageable amount. These likable spots are at least building awareness of their respective brands.

What’s interesting is that some of the ads scored poorly on likable but were still very effective. Take the Shick ‘Robot Razors’ spot. It scored well below average on likability (#44 out of 63) but it beat the pants off Budweiser’s ‘Simply Put’ on effectiveness (123 ABX vs 96) despite Budweiser’s ad ranking in the top ten on likability. So who really wins that argument? Budweiser got more appreciation because the spot was more likable, but those who saw the Schick ad were more likely to purchase. Interesting to notice. And it is interesting to analyze the pattern.

Twenty-one spots were neither liked nor effective. I can hear clients pumping their agencies up, claiming this is the opportunity of the year (of their life..) to show their talent. But even after full permission from the clients, twenty-one spots completely failed. These 21 spots didn’t earn any buzz because people didn’t like them. And they didn’t influence the millions of people who happened to watch them live during the game.

And meanwhile, Doritos knocked it out this year. Two Doritos spots are pinned in the top right corner of that graph– very likable and very effective. And these spots were a result of Dorito’s “Crash The Super Bowl” contest where regular folk submitted their own ads with the hope of being the winning spot. That’s slightly embarrassing for the advertising industry, don’t you think. Only 12 spots landed in the likable and effective camp. Big kudos to those who made it besides Doritos–Hyundai, Toyota, Heinz, Snickers, T-Mobile, Intuit, Honda, Colgate and Coke. But given the creative opportunity, the client’s charge to go big, and what it would do for your agency, how come so many spots missed the mark? We don’t want to list them, you just have to pick them up. And you have to see them again, if you’re brave.

The TV investment around big events like the Super Bowl becomes more and more questionable. Nobody has the answer yet why you should be there or you absolutely should not be. The only certitude is that we are the middle of a (big) game-changing era.


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