The firm reached its Super Bowl conclusions through interviews
with more than 1,000 consumers before and after they were exposed
to the ads in the 2012 and 2013 games. Before the game, Communicus
asks people what they've bought recently and what they intend to
buy in the categories spanning the Super Bowl advertiser base. Then
it follows up with the same group within the next couple of weeks
and asks similar questions as well as others in order to gauge
whether consumers actually saw Super Bowl ads for various brands.
For categories with longer purchase cycles, such as automobiles,
Communicus uses other measures such as changes in intention to
investigate buying a brand.
CEO Jeri Smith said it takes its first read on a typical ad four
weeks after it starts running to allow for multiple exposures. She
said one thing that she suspects hurts Super Bowl ads is that many
of them don't air regularly after the game and "we find that one ad
exposure often isn't enough to make anything happen."
She believes there are other factors at play, too.
"The advertisers really dial up the entertainment quotient to
pop to the top of the USA Today rankings and such," she said. "But
we find the brand association with Super Bowl commercials is much
lower than you'd get with a typical buy, just because of the way
the creative is structured."
Super Bowl ads actually do better than average in ad awareness,
with 44% of people remembering they've seen an average Super Bowl
ad vs. 32% for other ads that get similar gross-rating-point
exposure, Ms. Smith said. But because the creative often focuses
less on the brands, she said, people not surprisingly remember the
brands less often in Super Bowl ads. People who remember seeing a
Super Bowl ad recall the brand 35% of the time vs. about half the
time for other ads, she said.
The Super Bowl works better for new products, Ms. Smith said,
because the ad message tends to be clearer. Yet, some brands
without any real news have fared well too.
Budweiser's "Brotherhood" ad from the 2013 game, showing the
relationship between a Clydesdale and its trainer, fared well in
terms of entertainment value and increasing purchase intent, she
said, because the iconic horse is so well linked to the brand and
the creative was compelling. "Beer is an affinity product," she
said. "I want a beer that makes me feel good about myself."
But Tide's 2013 "Miracle Stain" ad, which was well liked and did
well on branding, still didn't increase purchases or intent,
according to Ms. Smith. "It didn't tell people anything they didn't
already know," she said. "And unlike Budweiser, I don't buy Tide
because of my personal connection."
Long-form commercials such as Tide's 60-second spot "run the
risk of people being so caught up in the story that they forget
about the brand," Ms. Smith said. And in "Miracle Stain," the brand
appeared at the end as "kind of the anti-hero" by eliminating a
stain that looked like former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Joe
Meanwhile, last year's Mercedes spot did well because it drove
home the message that the brand had a more affordable model coming
and helped boost interest in the brand more broadly. But most of
the automotive commercials "go to the bottom of the list in terms
of effectiveness because they all run together in people's minds,"
Communicus uses some of the same purchase-comparison metrics
copy pre-testing firms use, but gauges the ads' effect on consumers
who've seen them (or not seen them) in the real world rather than
through forced viewing. Asking about purchase intent is not precise
as sales data but is superior in isolating the impact of the
advertising with the individuals involved, since they're going back
pre- and post with the same individuals and the only real variable
is whether they saw the ad (given that both groups are just as
likely to have been influenced by promotions or other factors).