One week has passed since Super Bowl XLIV became history. After waiting a week to let the dust settle, today we look back at Super Bowl XLIV and its aftermath—and ask: What do we know now, that we didn’t know before the game? Since automotive commercials represented a huge slice of Super Bowl XLIV ads, the metaphor of the “rear view mirror” is apt: What do we see?
FIRST: This was Like Nothing Before
You don’t have to be a Saints fan to be in shock and awe about what this Super Bowl delivered!
- In terms of “eyeballs,” Super Bowl XLIV is the new “Most-Watched Television Program in U.S. History.” Ratings indicate that 106.5 million people viewed the game, topping all previous Super Bowls and edging out the previous record held by the 1983 M*A*S*H final episode (which 105.97 million viewers tuned in to see). Viewership was up 8% from the 2009 Super Bowl, which was seen by a then-record 98.7 viewers.
- Demographic data on the audience for this Super Bowl showed that men represented almost 55% of viewers. An estimated 48.5 million females watched the game, up 4.3 million from last year’s contest and a total that broke the previous record for female TV viewership set during the 1994 Winter Olympics figure skating competition which featured the U.S. skater Nancy Kerrigan. (Over the last five years the total number of females watching the game has climbed 17%.)
- While a record number of viewers tuned in, there was also a record-setting amount of time devoted to advertising during the Game. According to Kantar Media, 66 pitches from 41 companies as well as promotions for the network televising the game (CBS) added up to 47 minutes and 50 seconds of the telecast. This compares to 45 minutes and 5 seconds in 2009.
NEXT: Masculinity is the New Sex
More on this in a future blog post. Suffice it to say, many pundits pointed out that a majority of ads in Super Bowl XLIV reflected a fundamental shift in what advertisers believe will resonate with Today’s Man. One felt that this year’s ads displayed an all-time high in emasculated rage.
Historically the Super Bowl has reflected the old adage “Sex Sells,” acting as a showcase for hot babes and oodles of sexual imagery (as well as Action Picture-worthy explosions and related excess). And back in the day, any misogyny in the advertising was served up with a smile.
This year, however, the creative elements used in many ads reflected major anxiety about body image, loss of power and resentment among men. No less than four commercials had men in various states of undress. Several ads dealt with men asserting their masculinity, or attempting to assert it. In addition, and as one of my MBA students pointed out, “The one ad made it clear that for a lot of men they’d rather be alone hiding in a casket than deal with others.” (The latter refers to the Doritos “Casket” ad.) Meanwhile, the Dodge Charger commercial and others that referred to what men “suffer” for women (book clubs, vampire TV shows, and so on) barely concealed a simmering contempt.
AND: It’s Easier than Ever to Argue about Winners (and Losers)
This year even before the game was finished it seemed that EVERYONE wanted to weigh in on which Super Bowl ads were the best (and worst). In some sense this might be expected, since increasingly Americans watch the Big Game primarily to see the ads. As when viewing entertainment like American Idol or Project Runway, it’s natural to compare and contrast entrants, pick favorites and ridicule those deemed inferior.
But for those firms spending millions of dollars on an investment in Super Bowl advertising, a more telling question is: was it worth it? They must ask: “What did we get for what we spent? Did our advertising succeed or fail?”
A post-game review of pundits, polls and press releases reveals that AT LEAST EIGHT different types of measures could be (and were) used to evaluate the performance of Super Bowl XLIV commercials:
(1) VIEWERSHIP – Nielsen ratings during the game, by spot, showed how many people saw each ad.
The consumer-generated Doritos spot showing two men attacked in a gym for stealing Doritos was seen by an estimated 116.2 million viewers, making it the most watched television commercial of all time. At the other extreme, Focus on the Family’s Tim Tebow spot tied for the least viewed ad of the Game (92,576,680 estimated viewers).
Of note, the Honda Squirrel commercial was the 4th most viewed ad (114,771,720 viewers) yet scored very poorly on many other measures such as recall. Similarly, the US Census Bureau ad scored 9th (113,019,480 viewers)—yet relatively speaking was not liked or easily recalled.
(2) RECALL – Nielsen measures the percentage of viewers who can recall the brand of an ad they were exposed to during the normal course of viewing the Super Bowl. According to Nielsen, three Doritos ads scored the top three slots in recall this year, followed by the Budweiser “Fences” ad depicting a Clydesdale foal and a calf that grow up together.
(3) LIKEABILITY – Several polls assess the likeability of ads. Perhaps the most famous is the USA TODAY Ad Meter, in which 250 adult volunteers in San Diego and McLean, Virginia register their second-by-second reactions, using handheld meters to indicate how much they liked each ad. According to the Ad Meter, the most like ad in this year’s Super Bowl was the Snickers “Pick-up Game,” while the least-liked was the GoDaddy commercial “Spa,” starring Danica Patrick.
Nielsen, on the other hand, reports a Likeability Score which indicates the percentage of viewers who say they like “a lot” an ad they were exposed to during the normal course of watching the Super Bowl (among those recalling the brand of the ad). On this measure, the year’s best ad was Snickers, “Pick-up Game.”
Nielsen also goes one step further and reports a Brand Opinion Index, which indicates the percentage of viewers who report a “greatly improved opinion” of the advertised brand following exposure (among those recalling the brand of the ad). According to this measure, winners this year include Universal Orlando, FloTV, and Denny’s.
(4) REPLAY – TiVo provides a ranking of Super Bowl ads based on the DVR activity of an anonymous sample of about 45,000 of TiVo’s three million subscribers. It is not, strictly speaking, a list of the most-watched commercials. Rather, it reflects which ads engaged viewers the most, measured in terms of how many times they were rewound and replayed. The winner of this ranking in 2010 was the Doritos ad “House Rules.”
(Sites such as the FanHouse section of AOL also tally how many times particular Super Bowl ads are replayed as a measure of the ad’s popularity.)
(5) BUZZ and SOCIAL MEDIA – This is an area that has exploded, not only in terms of consumer activity but also in terms of marketers’ attempts to quantify and rank commercials’ performance on key dimensions. Consider the following:
- TWEETS: BrandBowl from Mullen and Radian6ranked ads based on tweets during the Game. Top performers included Doritos and Google.
- TWEETS: In a monitoring of Twitter by Colle & McVoy using a tool called Squawq, the Doritos “House Rules” commercial emerged as the leader.
- BLOG POSTS: As reported by Prophesee, this year saw a huge surge in mentions of Super Bowl advertisers. Using social media analytics software, Prophesee assessed the volume of posts and their sentiment, classified according to positive, negative or neutral.
- BUZZ (amount): Nielsen Buzzmetrics found that Dorito’s was the “most buzzed-about” advertiser during and after the game, followed by Google.
- BUZZ (amount, valence): Zeta Interactive, using its Zeta Buzz online media mining technology, found that the Google ad drew the most positive rating (at 98%), followed by the “House Rules” Doritos spot at 95%.
- BUZZ (valence): Skechers Shape-up sneakers drew the most negative chatter on Facebook and Twitter, according to Fizziolo.gy (a social media analysis firm).
- BUZZ (content in terms of associations): Dove’s ad for Men+Care ranked #11 on Zeta Interactive’s list of the top 15 Super Bowl commercials. Zeta said that before the Super Bowl the key associations with Dove were “soap,” “Beauty” and “deodorant.” On Feb 8 (the Monday after the game) these associations changed to “Super Bowl,” “ad” and “men.”
(6) BEHAVIORAL/TRAFFIC – Many would argue that Super Bowl ads are only successful if they drive people to visit a website, go to a bricks-and-mortar store, make a purchase, or yield some other behavioral outcome. Here are some notable behavioral phenomena, post-Super Bowl:
- GoDaddy: CEO Bob Parson sent out a press release claiming his ads “drove more Internet traffic than any other advertiser during the game according to Akamai” and “generated more new customers & sales for GoDaddy than any other Super Bowl Sunday campaign in company history.”
- Denny’s : in response to their Super Bowl advertising the firm gave away 2 million Grand Slam breakfasts. In addition, 300,000 consumers joined their rewards program.
- Hyundai and other select automotive advertisers: As reported by Kelley Blue Book, post-Game visits on Sunday to its website (kbb.com) to seek information about new cars surged for the Hyundai Sonata, which was promoted in three spots during the game and several before, as well as the Hyundai Tucson, which was not advertised in the game itself. Three other automotive models promoted during the game that experienced a gain in traffic were the Honda Accord Crosstour, the Kia Sorento, and the Audi A3 with the clean-diesel technology.
(7) HYBRID (“Blended Media”) –Nielsen has created a metric that quantifies the blending of “paid media” (e.g., TV ads) and “earned media” (e.g., online buzz). According to this “Blended Media Score” the top performers for the 2010 Super Bowl were Budweiser, Doritos and Denny’s. They all managed to perform well across multiple measures such as buzz volume, sentiment, recall and so on.
(8) STRATEGIC (e.g., 4SQUARE™ Super Bowl XLIV Ad Survey)
A systematic, strategic approach to evaluating an ad’s performance asks:
(a) what was this ad’s strategic objective (or objectives)?
(b) did the ad achieve its objective(s), meeting all necessary-but-not sufficient criteria along the way?
The 4SQUARE™ framework addresses these questions, and evaluates ads based on a structured, systematic approach rather than popularity or a subset of criteria (whether cognitive or behavioral). Here at www.thinkfeelsaydo.com, 46 Wisconsin MBA students completed the 4SQUARE survey immediately after Tweeting the Super Bowl. Top scoring ads included Snickers (“Pick-up Game”), Google (“Parisian Love”), Denny’s (“Chicken Warning”), and Dove Men+Care (“Manthem”). In each case, the ad and its surrounding efforts (involving social media, sales promotions and/or other tactics) represented a cohesive, winning execution of an integrated marketing communications strategy.
NEXT UP: Turning Away from the Rear-View Mirror, How Can We Apply What We’ve Learned from Super Bowl XLIV?