Tag Archives: Tim Calkins

Read This Before Watching Super Bowl Ads

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 7.23.16 PMExcuse me, the Big Game.  If you weren’t aware, there are very tight restrictions imposed by the NFL on use of the SB words.

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/1/31/18202037/super-bowl-53-ads-trademark-the-big-game-2019

hqdefault

But that’s not the point of this post.

You may be one of the many who watch the ads purely for entertainment value.  If that’s the case, you’re no doubt in for your share of brilliance, virtue signaling, emotional manipulation, morally questionable/disgusting, Christopher Walken and just plain bad ads (see “puppybabymonkey”).  All of which is great.  Enjoy.

https://thearmchairmba.com/?s=super

SuperBowlads2016

The intended point is that even if an ad is unbelievably hilarious, poignant, memorable or otherwise highly engaging, advertising has diminished value if the brand is not well integrated.

2015SuperBowlCollage

It’s sort of like meeting that attractive person at a bar that you have an amazing instant connection with, but leave without a phone number or any other way to take action.  If the brand isn’t connected to the ad, it’s hard for the viewer to do anything about it.

Roger-and-Jessica-Rabbit-mourn-Richard-Williams-their-creator-died

If you’re a marketer, however, SB, er, BG ads are interesting for different reasons – at $3.5M or $4M whatever the price for 30 seconds is these days, you are no doubt wondering how that expense can possibly pay out.

The good folks at Kellogg Graduate School of Business have come up with a formula called ADPLAN that breaks down key components of effective ads.  You can see how they rate Sunday’s ads in real time here:  https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/news-events/super-bowl.aspx

Attention
Distinction
Positioning
Linkage
Amplification
Net Equity

This point we’re talking about is related to one of the 6 points – L – Linkage – – of the advertising to the brand.

Many of the Big Game ads do a great job getting your attention, but don’t close the loop by making the brand an integral element.

As an example, compare two very entertaining ads – – which of them can you connect to a brand?

  • “Just OK is not OK” – whether it’s a tattoo artist, surgeon, babysitter or tax preparer, this campaign is highly entertaining, engaging and amusing. It just doesn’t have a strong linkage to the brand or core message (other than ‘we’re better than OK’ – – not necessarily ownable or particularly compelling). I’ve enjoyed this campaign immensely but have never remembered the advertiser.  (It’s AT&T, by the way.  I checked).

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/IZ6U/at-and-t-wireless-ok-surgeon

vlcsnap-2019-01-03-07h11m27s067

  • “Jake” You can probably already envision the scene (late at night phone call) and catchphrase “Jake…from State Farm”.  In this case, the premise (State Farm is always available) and the brand name are well integrated into the creative.

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/7ISp/state-farm-3-am-savings

maxresdefault

That’s it.  My intended takeaway is neither original nor news – – but it’s still really important in evaluating ad effectiveness.

So enjoy the game this Sunday.  There will be lots of great entertaining spots. And it looks like it could be a good game as well.

However, from a marketing perspective, if you can’t remember the brand whose commercial you just watched, there’s work yet to be done.

Battle of the 2017 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

Battle of the 2017 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

Last year The Armchair MBA presciently foreshadowed our country’s potential slide into anarchy – – and we take no pride in noting that we appear to have been right.

Be that as it may, this glass case of emotion that we call the US must go on, and of course the Super Bowl is still the tentpole of our national identity.  So in the spirit of national unity, we herewith put forward our ratings and reviewer compilation of the advertising from this year’s Brady Bowl (or as some might call it from the Falcons’ perspective, the choking chickens Bowl).

super-bowl-montage
And as a perfect reflection of society, there is very little agreement among the dozen major reviewers we looked at.  This year we’ve added a feature of averaging the critics’ scores so you can see how YOU stack up.

At the bottom of this post is a chart comparing major reviewers for all the spots run during last Sunday’s game.
NOTE: ads are grouped by my rankings of green/yellow/pink and are now ranked by the reviewers’ average within those groups.

A few observations (all Super Bowl ads can be found here):

NO ANIMALS THIS YEAR!  Unless you count the dead (Spuds McKenzie), the 2-dimensional (Yellow Tail wine) or the sidelined (Rob Gronkowski).  I miss these furry diversions and was hoping the lack of reliance on a lowest common denominator would indicate lots of great spots.  Alas, twas not to be.
But there were some themes at work…

itsa10

High concept does not necessarily make for great advertising. The Armchair MBA is not a fan of co-opting a high-minded theme just to make a statement- often comes off as stilted or forced.
– Audi, 84 Lumber, Budweiser, AirBnB, and It’s A 10 Haircare (I know – who, right?) all went for the high road by tying into the topical (often sideswiping the President, the Real DJT).
Unfortunately, for this image-driven work to be effective it needs to create a strong link to the brand among a group that might be interested in the product (this is advertising, after all).
– It’s A 10 Haircare is a new brand and while their ad was cheeky and visually interesting, they could have done more to tell us why we should care.
– 84 Lumber is a regional competitor to Home Depot and Lowe’s and ran an emotional immigration spot that, partially due to network censorship, required a visit online to see the conclusion.  The average demo for this vertical is male/50, not necessarily a strong bet for following up online or changing their go-to building supply outlet without a reason. It did generate brand awareness, though.
– Audi made a passionate pitch for gender pay equality (with no apparent reason given for why this is related to Audi), then undermined the message by putting Dad (not Mom) in the hot sports car.

walken-timberlake

You simply cannot go wrong with Christopher Walken. He did it for Kia Motors last year, and this year changed sponsors to team with a deadpan/mute Justin Timberlake for one of the best-received spots – for Bai Antioxidant Drink.

mccarthymalkovich

Actually, celebrities were out in force, probably to the greatest degree ever, and generally to good effect.  In this high-stakes, high-octane environment, celebrities provide one of the only reliable ways to guarantee eyeballs. In addition to Walken:
John Malkovich’s arresting visage gave Squarespace breakthrough
– The Coen Brothers directed a Mercedes-Benz spot featuring Peter Fonda
– Kia traded Walken for Melissa McCarthy (and a few draft picks) for a generally entertaining spot for the new Niro
– A newly nerdly Justin Bieber drew attention for T-Mobile in his own polarizing way
– Other celebrities included Terry Bradshaw (Tide), Cam Newton (Buick), Kristen Schaal (T-Mobile), Lady Gaga (Tiffany), Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg (T-Mobile), LeBron James (Sprite), Morgan Freeman (Turkish Airlines), Tom Brady, even Bill Nye the Science Guy!  And the list goes on (including a slew of very amusing high school yearbook celebrity photos in a Honda spot).

honda-yearbook

Generally well-accepted spots had breakthrough and were straightforward (usually with some humor)
Honda, Bud, Avocados from Mexico, Skittles, Ford made this list.  Inexplicably so did a Bud Light spot featuring an exhumed Spuds McKenzie.

bieber

There were also some universally unloved spots, mostly due to lack of wit, relevance or originality.
American Petroleum Institute (paaaarrrty!) headed this list, followed closely by the generic twins Fiji Water and LIFEWTR, Yellow Tail Wine, KFC and Michelin.

Finally, our annual check-in with Weather Tech – for this, their 4th effort, they did kick back and have a beer (not while driving) and the result was a looser, more fun spot.  Well done.

This table compares 12 major reviewers, who clearly do not all see things the same.  (did you really expect Vogue to feel the same as the WSJ?) 
Simply click once or twice on the table
 to make it readable.

superbowl2017

Footnotes:
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approachAttention
–Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

Reviewers and links to reviews (if you were involved in any of the reviews and feel I got something wrong, let me know):
Kellogg Graduate School of Business – Northwestern University
Adweek
Ad Age
Bleacher Report
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
The Guardian
New Yorker
USA Today
Variety
Vogue
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal

That’s it for this year – – as always, with The Armchair MBA, you get what you pay for!

Plus, I want that new Alfa Romeo.

See you next year!

Battle of the 2015 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

It’s time to demonstrate (again) that when it comes to advertising, no one agrees on anything. Raise your hand if you’re shocked.

The Armchair MBA repeated last year’s stunt in comparing the ratings of 10 prominent 2015 Super Bowl ad reviewers, summarized in the handy chart below, along with my personal ratings. (Green/yellow/red coding, alphabetized within my ratings)

2015SuperBowlCollage

While no Doberhuahua this year, there was plenty of dreck and schmaltz to take its place, but a few very good spots as well. Unfortunately many spots were so-so – – either they rewarded our attention with a muddled message or weak branding, or they were copy-by-committee logical with no heart or pizzazz (Hello, GoDaddy. Hello, Weathertech).

Mostly universally admired: P&G Always “Like a Girl”, Avocados from Mexico, Dove Men+Care, Mophie, Budweiser/Puppy (I declined highest marks on the last two)

Most universally unloved: Nationwide’s “Boy” (runaway loser), Nissan, Lexus

Most schizophrenic (scored best on some lists, worst on others): McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’”, SquareSpace/Jeff Bridges, Loctite “Positive Feelings”, Toyota Camry/Amy Purdy, Carnival Cruise Lines, Victoria’s Secret (had to watch this again to make sure I knew how I felt)

A few observations:
– Personally not a fan of high-concept feel-good spots like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or Jeep, or for that matter, the very cute/manipulative Bud puppy ads. Fun for the agency, probably test well for likability, but hard to see how see how it drives action or enhances the core brand equity.
Love spots like Fiat 500 SUV – simple message (we made the base 500 bigger), using an analogy that’s easy to understand and relevant to the main point (if a bit naughty)
– Would love to be a fly on the wall during the approval process of the Nationwide’s “Boy” spot (spoiler alert: it’s about a charming boy who turns out to be dead. More chips & dip, please).
– For fun, check out some of the breathless, we-take-ourselves-kind-of-seriously reviews comments like “Powerful message but tough ad to watch”, “Disturbingly brilliant and impactful”, “emotionally powerful and good storytelling”, blah blah blah – you can see some here (as well as a CMO’s explanation about why his ad was NOT supposed to sell product.  Hmmm…).

To see the summary, click on the chart below. Click twice for maximum size/readability.

SuperBowl2015

The reviewers:
Kellogg Graduate School of Management

Advertising Age

Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune


Entertainment Weekly

Variety

Slate

Yahoo Sports

New Yorker
New York Post (new this year!)

My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approach: Attention
– Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

We know that the Super Bowl is a special stage, and different rules certainly apply.   In addition, there are social media linkages and previews that can dramatically amplify the impact of ads. So it is somewhat unfair to judge an execution in isolation.

On the other hand, we don’t claim to be fair. And as observed last year, sometimes an ad just sucks.

See you next year.