Super Bowl Ad Outlook: 5 Questions with Kellogg School Prof Derek Rucker -


Kellogg School of Management Super Bowl Ads

As marketers prepare for the single largest stage in advertising, the stakes are higher than ever at a reported $5 million for a 30-second spot in Super Bowl 50 on February 7 in San Francisco.

That makes it increasingly important for brands’ Big Game strategies to work—whether to advertise, what approach to use, when to reveal the creative, how to support the spot with social media and more.

One pundit on past Super Bowl campaigns—and an early handicapper on what to look for this year—is Derek Rucker, a professor of entrepreneurial studies in marketing at the Kellogg School of Northwestern University. He talked with brandchannel about marketers’ favorite annual sporting event:

bc: What trends do you see so far shaping advertising for Super Bowl 50?

Derek Rucker Kellogg School of Management

Derek Rucker: Now it’s not just about what you do in the Super Bowl but before the Super Bowl. So we’re seeing some interesting PR stunts, such as Taco Bell’s announcement about returning to the game that has all sorts of redacted information. This means that the announcement of being in the Super Bowl has taken on a form. There have been aspects of that before but we’re seeing it early this season. They want to get the most out of their dollars.

Also, as in the past few years, this means not just spending a media buy for a spot but also putting money toward paid social media and promoting on social media. We’ll see more and more of this where, as we enjoy the game, and second and third screen viewing become more common, brands are figuring out how to insert themselves into the conversation when and where consumers want it. Because with the Super Bowl, when you see a great spot, the consumer wants to do something around that spot.

Taco Bell Super Bowl

bc: What makes for a good Super Bowl ad? Some marketers firmly believe that only humor and irreverence work.

Rucker: What makes it different than any other day? A couple of things. One is that people want to see the ad and get excited about it. But the other reality is that because it’s advertising’s biggest show, the expectations are sky high. It can’t be just great work but it has to be work that really stands out. So it’s got to be funny or irreverent, some say, but it’s got to be something that sticks out.

Yet the ad that Chrysler did a few years back with Eminem also proved that you don’t have to be super funny or irreverent or even witty—we remember ads that don’t do that, too. Budweiser ads also are often remembered even though they’re not just irreverent ones. But they are classy.

bc: Maybe the key is you can’t be preachy, like that Nationwide ad last year featuring the “ghost” of a young boy who died because of his parents’ household negligence?

Rucker: It’s a lighthearted event. More than 110 million people or so will be watching it, and how many of them have their team to watch? Fantasy leagues are over. If you go too dark or get too emotional, the danger is that you’re not going to be able to bring the consumer with you. The Nationwide spot did very poorly because it stirred negative emotion without giving the consumer the answer. If you go negative, your resolution has to be compelling and convincing, to keep consumers engaged. Not just preachy with no takeaway.

bc: Every brand advertising in the Super Bowl must choose between teasing its creative and just keeping it all for a “reveal” on that day, with the former decision increasingly winning over the latter. What do you think they should do?

Rucker: A strong view has evolved on this over time that you don’t want to leak your Super Bowl ad—you want people to enjoy it in the moment. That’s still my mentality. But brands came to realize that if you want to get the most out of your Super Bowl ad buy, can you do something to tease it or to encourage consumers to get excited and share and discuss things so you’re getting buzz going into it.

One reason advertisers release the full ad is that they don’t know if they will get the same response in the market—if it’s not the greatest ad, they release it earlier because it’s probably not going to be the ad people will talk about after the game. If the reveal isn’t excellent or they don’t know how to get the conversation going ahead of time without the reveal—those are two reasons to show the ad earlier.

bc: Is Frito-Lay making a mistake by ending the “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign after Super Bowl 50?

Rucker: There are so many advertisers that have tried to do consumer-generated content, and very few have found a way to make it work. But it’s a formula that has worked for Doritos because the brand and its properties are so well known and understood that it’s easy to crowdsource ideas. Like when a guy is eating Doritos in one ad and another guy starts sucking that guy’s thumb, everyone gets it. It’s all about the brand, and it’s the message that Doritos taste that good.

Other thoughts when a brand ends that kind of approach are: Have they worn it out so it won’t pop as much? If they don’t have something that stands out anymore then they’re spending a lot of money to just stand in the background. When Doritos started, part of the schtick was that it was consumer-generated. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve seen something suggesting that this is not the path forward anymore—that people aren’t going to get excited about it.

Kellogg School of Management Super Bowl Ads

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Source: Google News Super Bowl Commercials