By Michael Wolfe
According to Advertising Age, a 30-second Super Bowl ad in 2017 cost about $5 million. That puts total Super Bowl 51 ad spend near $385 million. It seems like many Super Bowl ads focus on gaining viewers likability and it often appears to be a popularity contest. The key question, however, is how well do these ads drive customers to spend money or do some kind of proactive and positive behavior towards the advertised brand. That is the issue we wish to explore here.
Using Advertising Benchmark’s ABX copy test scores, the overall results for 2017 Super Bowl commercials were nothing to brag about. In fact, using standard ad effectiveness criteria, 2017 ads were a disappointment, at best. Overall scores of the last 5 Super Bowls also generally fall short of ad norms.
The chart below summarizes ABX ad effectiveness scores for 65 ads. Overall, 58% of these ads scored at or above normative levels. As shown, unfortunately, there were some very low scoring ads. Ads with a political message, such as the 84 Lumber ad, did not fare that well.
The ABX ad testing system is based on a survey of a nationally representative panel. The major components making up the ABX index are:
- Awareness/brand linkage. Was the brand advertised correctly recalled?
- Message clarity. Was the primary commercial message understood?
- Brand reputation shift. Did viewing the ad change brand reputation perceptions?
- Message relevance. Was the ad message deemed relevant to the customer?
- Call to action. Did the ad elicit any positive actions or intentions, including purchase intent?
- Although not part of the ABX score algorithm, was the ad liked or disliked?
If we look at the key criteria or drivers of ad effectiveness, below shows that, while Super Bowl ads do very well on “likeability” and generating “buzz”, these didn’t fare so well on key action points and particularly on such critical measures as “purchase intent”
In sum, the key insight here is that popularity and likeability do not always translate to effective actions from the customer. Clearly, funny, cool and emotional ads can be good ads, but focusing on winning a popularity contest does not always translate into effective marketing, which stimulate customers to do some positive action towards a brand.