Super Bowl

Forget Popularity: These Super Bowl Ads Achieved Marketers' Business Objectives

Too Often the Wrong Questions Are Asked

By Published on .

The confetti has barely been swept off the Levi's Stadium turf, and the ad forensics are underway. Which ads were most and least liked? Which used a celebrity best? How did the ads differ from last year?

The answers are always interesting, but rarely consequential nor predictive of marketplace success. Because the wrong questions are being asked.

To those with more than a casual interest – the people who've made the high-stakes decision to plan, produce, purchase and place a spot in the annual ad extravaganza, there's only one thing that matters: Will this investment deliver on our brand and business objectives?

Getting to this answer requires that a different set of questions be asked of and answered by a statistically significant number of prospective consumers of the advertised product. So using the same AdLab creative testing solution favored by a number of Fortune 500 brands to evaluate and optimize their ads, we did just that.

Penn Schoen Berland worked through the night to test each and every ad that appeared in Super Bowl 50, collecting responses from over 12,600 people. To evaluate each ad on its potential in-market efficacy, we asked 32 questions clustered into seven communication "pillars" which are associated with highly effective ads: breakthrough potential, communication, education, emotional relevance, perception, behavior, and advocacy.

Key findings: The medalists
When assessing the top-five performers across each of the seven pillars described above -- and excluding ads for upcoming movies (which arguably sell an experience rather than a product) -- three ads exhibit broad and uniform strength: WeatherTech "Resources," Hyundai "First Date," and Doritos "Ultrasound." Three markedly different categories. Three different levels of purchase consideration (ranging from a $35,000 car to a $1 snack). Three strong commercials.

Tone, manner and approach
Having established its product credentials last year, WeatherTech advanced to showcasing itself as a distinctly American enterprise with an earnest and straightforward story that stood apart from the pack. Hyundai tapped in to the timeless tension between a father and his daughter's suitor with a truly funny problem/solution construct. And Doritos took a common human moment and made it uncommonly - and daringly - humorous.

Brand integration
These three ads made it abundantly clear what was for sale, and still managed to engage and reward the viewer. The car-finder feature was front and center in the Hyundai First Date spot, enabling the entire storyline and ultimately, the father's success. From the opening seconds, the product was the focus of the Dorito's ad, and it literally pulled the action along. From start to finish and without becoming smarmy, the WeatherTech narrative ennobled their employees, and the people became the brand.

Shared strengths
The AdLab medalists exhibited three common strengths which have long been associated with highly effective advertising: they were clear, possessed a single-minded idea, and each engaged and rewarded the viewer. Now as ever, the fundamentals still matter.

Brand Ad Title Pillar Score - Breakthrough Potential
Hyundai First Date 62.33
Doritos Doritos Dogs 62.00
Doritos Doritos Ultrasound 59.00
Coca-Cola A Mini Marvel (Hulk vs. Ant-Man) 58.67
Honda A New Truck to Love 58.00
Brand Ad Title Pillar Score - Communication
Colgate Every Drop Counts 62.00
Weather Tech Resources 58.50
TurboTax Never a Sellout 58.50
Budweiser Simply Put 57.50
Coca-Cola A Mini Marvel (Hulk vs. Ant-Man) 54.50
Brand Ad Title Pillar Score - Education
Weather Tech Resources 38.00
Colgate Every Drop Counts 36.33
Xifaxan Xifaxan 36.00
OIC Envy 34.67
Hyundai First Date 32.67
Brand Ad Title Pillar Score - Emotional Relevance
Budweiser Simply Put 41.67
Weather Tech Resources 39.33
Hyundai First Date 38.33
Colgate Every Drop Counts 37.67
Doritos Doritos Dogs 33.33
Brand Ad Title Pillar Score - Perception
Weather Tech Resources 41.50
Audi Commander 41.00
Doritos Doritos Ultrasound 39.50
Hyundai First Date 37.00
Schick Robot Razors 36.00
Brand Ad Title Pillar Score - Behavior
Doritos Doritos Ultrasound 31.00
Weather Tech Resources 31.00
Schick Robot Razors 28.00
PayPal There's a New Money in Town 26.50
Persil Persil ProClean 26.50
Brand Ad Title Pillar Score - Advocacy
Doritos Doritos Ultrasound 38.00
Hyundai First Date 34.00
Doritos Doritos Dogs 33.50
Audi Commander 31.00
No More Text Talk 31.00

METHODOLOGY: Penn Schoen Berland conducted an online survey in the US, evaluating a total of 63 Super Bowl ads among 12,643 consumers. Each advertisement was tested among approximately 200 consumers. The survey was conducted February 7, 2016.

All numbers shown in this report represent percentages unless otherwise noted. Columns that do not add up to 100 may be due to removal of "other," "don't know" responses, rounding of decimals or inclusion of multiple responses.

The sampling error for the approximately 200 consumers who evaluated each individual Super Bowl advertisement is plus or minus 6.9 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. This means that in 95 out of 100 samples like the one used here, the results obtained should be no more than 6.9 percentage points above or below the figure that would be obtained by interviewing the full population of the audiences included in this research.

In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.