super bowl™ ads, through the eyes of students.

The Super Bowl™ presents an excellent opportunity for people, like me, who teach advertising to tie it to key lessons. And, as often happens in classes, I learned almost as much from what students thought were effective ads.

For Broadcasting 328: Media Advertising, I’ve asked all my students to sign up for Twitter (the subject of a future blog post) and each session includes a less-than-140-character homework assignment. This one: Tweet about an ad you thought was effective and mark it with a #brc328 tag.

So while USA Today had its ever-popular AdMeter ratings, the Web was all a-twitter over various commercials and every pundit had their take, the students provided a different view (in a much-sought-after demographic, no less). I learned the three most important things to them were 1) humor, 2) great visuals, 3) a memorable idea. Most popular campaigns with them were:

1. Bud Light/Budweiser. Biggest buzz surrounded the Bud Light House. Clearly, it represents fantasy fulfillment, but it made people laugh, provided a concrete visual and was a clever execution. Moreover, the product was not only the hero, but dominated the screen. They also liked the Lost parody and the T-Pain/autotune spot — both using humor and playing on popular culture. What all ads had in common: They equated Bud Light with partying and fun. The Budweiser bridge spot also proved popular because of its visual impact. I continue to maintain that it’s unclear whether Budweiser gains market share for the outlay, but if college students are impressed and remember the product, that says something.

2. Doritos. One student explained the simple brilliance of the Playing Nice ad: When the child tells his mother’s suitor: Keep your hands off my momma. Keep your hands off my Doritos, it pretty clearly sets the priorities in his world. Hyperbole? Sure. But it makes its point succinctly. The snappy execution of Dog Collar and the (weird, imho) Tim’s Locker/Samurai spots also scored.

3. Denny’s. When’s the last time anyone even talked about Denny’s? Yet the screaming chicken ads, while potentially annoying, sure captured attention. One student shrewdly noted it highlighted special offers for Free Grand Slam Day and free Grand Slam on your birthday. Simple idea — everyone will want Denny’s breakfasts, so chickens have to work harder — that came across loud and clear.

Other thoughts:

Surprising revelation: Many pundits wrote off the Boost Mobile ad because they assumed using the 1985 Chicago Bears couldn’t sell to young adults. Big disconnect, right? Wrong. Every student in my class claims to know the Super Bowl™ Shuffle, perhaps because of how we recycle pop culture. Thus we know what happens when we assume …

Betty White scores: The Snickers ad earned the most positive buzz among people I follow on Twitter (and topped AdMeter ratings), plus the students loved it too. They may not have known who Abe Vigoda was, but they all knew Betty White from Golden Girls. And once you got past the shock of White being creamed in a backyard football game, you got the concept: Snickers picks you up.

Where’s the outrage?: The young women weren’t terribly offended by the Dodge Charger ad, even though it seemed the most excoriated spot on Twitter. Some saw the overstatement and shrugged it off; others didn’t find it any more offensive than the other messages that regularly bombard us.

My personal favorite?: The Google ad. Why Google would need to advertise (imho: to counter Bing) is a fair question, but in terms of simple storytelling and demonstrating the product’s effectiveness, I loved it. A tale of boy meets girl, with some cool music, the brand as hero and a bit of humor. It won’t affect my use of Google, but as standalone branding, I found it just about pitch-perfect.

So you have the opinions of a couple dozen college students and an older dude who works in communication. What did you think? And will you think of any of these observations next time you try to market to students?



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7 responses to “super bowl™ ads, through the eyes of students.

  1. very interesting, professor. everyone, i heard, liked the google ad… sorry I missed that one! i’ll have to YouTube it. I did see the Betty White ad, though, and it was hilarious 😀

  2. Dave

    I’m a long way from college age, but here’s what I liked:

    Betty White/Abe Vigoda. That was just so funny. Problem: I’ve forgotten the product and had to scroll up to see your note that it was Snickers.

    Best ad: Google. It wasn’t the funniest, but it told a consistent and compelling story and there’s no way you can forget that the ad was for Google. Most great spots aren’t really great — you forget what product is being advertised. Google’s ad agency deserves the largest bonus.

    Denny’s, Doritos and E-Trade were all good enough, but not great. Denny’s scores for solid and unforgettable branding. E-Trade keeps the franchise moving, but this was no “shankapottamus”. The kid in the one Doritos ad was a hoot and the Japanese-throwing-star-Dorito in the other ad was kinda funny.

    Funniest ad of the year wasn’t in the Super Bowl. No idea why Wal-mart wouldn’t pony up to run that hilarious clown ad in the big game, other than the cost. Would have won hands down.

  3. Conspicuously absent this year was Pepsi, which used to spend mega-bucks on Super Bowl advertising but this year opted to focus on social media cause marketing. (Jeremiah Owyang thinks Pepsi made a mistake, suggesting Pepsi should have taken a more integrated approach. And I think I agree.)

    My favorite: the “worst Super Bowl party ever” ad with David Letterman, Oprah and Jay Leno.

    Least favorite: the GoDaddy ads. All I can say is, Danica Patrick must be well compensated to debase herself in those ads.

  4. Oh, yeah, I also liked the VW ads with people doing the “slug bug” punches, ending with Tracy Morgan asking Stevie Wonder, “How do you do that?”

  5. insidetimshead

    FERN: YouTubing the Google ad … you’re so funny!

    DAVE: You’ve hit on an important point here: A memorable ad doesn’t equate with making your product memorable. Sometimes the best execution includes little to no brand strategy, and we don’t recall what it’s selling (remember all those mid-’90s dot com ads that told us nothing but that they [thought they] had a couple mil to blow?). Or with something like the ad, the setup is clever but the payoff minimal. It’s a tricky biz.

    ANDREW: I’m wondering if Dave-Oprah-Jay skewed old? So many folks, er, my age liked it, but the students didn’t seem impressed. Despite the late-night wars dominating the news. I did like the VW one too … a little bit of mayhem + great punchline (pun not quite indended) = win!

  6. Tim: I just showed up to say hi. I didn’t watch one second of the SuperBowl so I have nothing to say about the ads. And you know what? I don’t feel deprived at all! Brad was busy building a super computer in Korea and I luxuriated in a football-free household.
    Anyway, in my response to Fern’s note to us on FB, I was telling her that since I have the and gig (nonpaying, but it’s my “platform”), I now have something that gives me a huge audience. Then I’m free to post the article on my home blog. But when I post writing on Xanga I get one or two people who read it and I’m lucky if one comments. I still try to make the rounds and comment over there, but something has changed.
    I’m getting no satisfaction at all and don’t understand why something that’s been retweeted a zillion times and sent to Arabic countries, for heaven’s sake, is of no interest at all to xangans.
    I think it’s time to say goodbye. I guess I’m going to have to take the time to learn WP, but, of course, this is a bad time. It will have to be in March. I’m judging a fiction contest right now.
    But stop by and see me some time. Or see me at FB, where I post the Tech. articles all the time.
    I will bookmark this page. If Brad were here, he’d say hi.

  7. Pingback: twitter as a teaching tool? tis true. « InsideTimsHead

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