Media buyers often have a different perspective on why an ad is good. Things like brand recall, trackability, or a call to action give us a mathematical lens to view the performance of creative.
Last night, as I was soaking up all of the hype surrounding the big game, I took a few moments to conduct ad hoc surveys on my surrounding and somewhat unwilling test subjects – my wife, her family, and my kids. Needless to say, I think we all had widely-varying opinions on which commercials were good, which missed the mark, and which ones were just completely off base.
The thing is, those conversations were entirely based on creative – what was funny, what was a tear-jerker, or what was just plain weird. So in the spirit of curiosity, I asked each one to tell me the name of the brand being advertised in their favorite commercial. The result of my survey? Not good. Less than half could answer.
Hence, why it’s important to consider more than the creative when it comes to judging the success of a Super Bowl ad. Sure, we all have our favorite commercials, but in terms of return on investment (ROI), things like the timing of exposure, brand recall, and trackability can be just as important in measuring success.
So from a different angle, and at the risk of giving kudos to my competition, here are my opinions on what I viewed as the top two campaigns and the worst two from a media buyer’s perspective:
Good: Pepsi’s #RealOrActing (Two Spots)
Why: The campaign pre-launched with PR in early January, and spent enough on the media during the game to gain two one-minute spots plus two in-game sponsorships. Brand recall was strong, the choice of spokespeople covered a wide audience (Ben Stiller and Steve Martin), and the call to action was spot on. As of this writing, the campaign hashtag had over 82 million views on TikTok. That’s a pretty strong follow-up to the media investment if you’re looking to extend brand reach and frequency. Whether you liked the ads or hated them, the execution of the buy was very good.
Good: Molson Coors’ Actually It’s a Blue Moon Commercial
Why: Talk about bang for your buck. Anyone watching was about one minute away from halftime and a sure trip to the fridge, cooler, or bar. So the timing was excellent. Add to that the fact that Molson figured out a way to match that timing with around a dozen mentions of both Coors and Miller with the lasting “Actually, It’s a Blue Moon” moment. It offered tremendous recall value (which was also tested anecdotally by yours truly) and an incredibly low buy-in cost compared to the bigger spenders.
Bad: Downy Unstoppables Mystery Celeb Danny McBride
Why: I wanted this ad to wow me. The lead-up teasers in social media were a good start, but the match between Danny McBride and the brand just didn’t bring the expectations full circle. Sorry, Kenny Powers. I love you, but I’m not buying your scent boosters. That just seems weird. Plus, the spot was buried in the middle of the second quarter. The buy-in was high compared to the recall value and the extremely wide audience. For what it’s worth, nobody in the room other than myself had a clue who Danny McBride was. It felt like a lot of money for not much of a return. This was a classic case of spray and pray while not knowing your audience.
Bad: Workday’s Rockstar
Why: Okay, I admit this one was funny, but it fell hard into the “what brand was that” category. Millions of dollars and one minute later it was all over. The ad aired early in the fourth quarter when most people’s brains were farthest away from the workday. Not to mention, the logo was barely visible during the spot and only had a brief end card for about four seconds. Fast forward a day later, and their Twitter post promoting the ad currently has a whopping 87 retweets. That’s a combination of poor creative execution and bad spot timing.
I could go on and on about the game’s commercials, but ultimately what it all boils down to is strategy. Yes, creative is important, but when you’re spending millions of dollars for a one-minute spot during the biggest TV event of the year, you’d better be sure your media investment will match up with your brand’s goals.