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The Four Elements of an Effective Super Bowl Ad
By: Andrew Davis
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According a National Retail Federation study conducted by BIGinsight, 73% of viewers of the Super Bowl see commercials as entertainment. This sets a high standard for advertisers for not only capturing the attention of viewers distracted at parties, or looking down from the television to check Facebook on their phone. It also requires that they keep consumers entertained.
However, this demand to create a commercial that can both capture attention and entertain sometimes causes creative teams to overlook the primary purpose of any advertisement: selling the brand. If consumers aren’t more motivated to support a brand after a commercial, then advertisers dropped $3.5 million to get a chuckle out of consumers. Or, if things get “overly creative,” they spent a significant chunk of change to either confuse or bore them. And, in the worst-case scenario, which occurred with Groupon in last year’s Super Bowl, the ad just pisses people off.
It’s a huge gamble. For many companies, a Super Bowl ad-buy is most (or, all) of the marketing budget for the entire year. If the ad bombs, or fails to drive the brand, all is lost.
“An ad can be funny, cute, viral, likeable, watchable, etc.,” writes Peter Daboll, CEO of Ace Metrix, in a recent editorial at AdAge about the gamble of Super Bowl advertising. “But if a consumer doesn't get anything out of it but a laugh, it's just not effective.” Daboll says Internet companies are particularly prone to Super Bowl failures, since their products are outside the norm, and their ads do little more than simply announce their presence to the world. On past Internet ads, Daboll says: “Not only did these companies spend millions on Super Bowl media, they also wasted significant dollars on hiring celebrities that did nothing to move their message or their brand forward.”
It’s easy to get a laugh. It’s much harder to get a laugh and then sell a product. And, even if an ad gets millions of YouTube hits, or is voted the viewers’ favorite, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a “good ad” in what could be considered effective advertising. In the words of advertising legend Rosser Reeves: "Somebody, some day, is going to put advertising awards on the proper basis. And that basis is, does it work?"
Volkswagen had one of the most popular commercials last year. Yet, how many consumers remember the little Darth Vader compared to how many remember what that Volkswagen car looks like, or what model it was?
This year, I’ve decided to create an advertising matrix that puts Super Bowl commercials to the test. There are four key elements that make an effective Super Bowl commercial: attention-grabbing, entertaining, brand promotion, and brand recall. A commercial must grab the consumers’ attention, entertain them while promoting the brand in a relevant (and effective) way, and consumers should remember the brand at the end of the game.  If one of these elements is missing, then the commercial will have failed to fulfill its purpose.
To download the Super Ad Matrix for yourself, click here (or, you can find it on Google Docs by searching for "Super Ad Matrix"). And, come back after the game to report what you felt was the best commercial based on your findings.


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About the Author
Andrew Davis is a Charleston, SC-based creative services consultant to small businesses and non-profits. Follow him on Twitter here.
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