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Monmouth advertising students agree with nation’s viewers on top Super Bowl ads

Barry McNamara
Students in Monmouth College’s “BUSI 367 – Advertising” course were mostly “NSYNC” with the national rankings for Super Bowl commercials, naming the ads that ranked in the top four spots in a USA Today poll among their choices for the best ad of the day.

That included Melissa McCarthy’s commercial for Kia, which earned the top ranking among the 66 Super Bowl ads, and a Bai ad featuring Christopher Walken and former NSYNC frontman Justin Timberlake.

Students in Tom Prince’s class also gave their own No. 1 vote to the Honda “yearbook” ad, the Audi ad for equal pay for women and Budweiser’s “immigration” commercial. Those three ads ranked 2-4 in the USA Today poll.

Other ads that ranked first among individual students included the Bud Light “Spuds McKenzie” ad, Cam Newton for Buick, and ads for, Ford, Michelob Ultra, Coca-Cola and Febreze.

Prince said that Super Bowl ads still matter because the NFL’s championship game is one of those rare TV events that attracts a broad, diverse audience of viewers.

“We as a nation have a shared viewing experience,” said Prince, who is a visiting assistant professor in the College’s political economy and commerce department. “If you think about it, on every other night, (one of) you might be watching Netflix, one might be on Hulu and another might be streaming a different show. We don’t have the shared viewing experiences like we did 20 or 30 years ago, when most of us on a given night were watching the same show, like M*A*S*H.

Companies know they can reach more than 100 million viewers simultaneously, and they pay for the privilege. The Fox network made $400 million on advertising off Sunday’s game, plus another $20 million because the game went into overtime.

Prince told his students that successful Super Bowl TV commercials are a mix of at least one appeal and one framework. An example: the Bai ad, framed in dramatization, with a humorous appeal, as the company’s name was incorporated into NSYNC’s popular song “Bye Bye Bye.”

Michelin used a combination of animation (its “Michelin Man”) and rationality (its tires keep you safe). Prince said the company is also a prime example of one of “three things you can do to a brand.”

Although the Michelin Man was in the ad, his role was downplayed, which Prince said is a “rejuvenation” of the brand. The company plans to use more “real people” in future ads.

Prince said that a brand can also be created and changed.

Students also reported on commercials they felt didn’t work. Many pegged ads that placed at the bottom of the USA Today poll: Tom Brady for Intel, Yellowtail and its kangaroo, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mobile Strike ad and KFC’s “Golden Colonel.” The latter two ads both placed in the bottom six.

“To borrow from an old TV show, they’ve got a lot of ’splaining to do,” Prince said of the agencies that produced those ads and the executives who approved them.

Prince noted some companies got an early sense of how their ads were received, as there were 101 million online views of ads leading up to the Super Bowl. Among those views, led the way with 22 million, followed by TurboTax (“Humpty Dumpty”) with 15 million, Mercedes-Benz with 12 million and Avocados from Mexico with 11 million.

Placing fifth was the Budweiser “immigration” ad. Prince was slightly surprised it didn’t place higher, as it received much of the buzz from media outlets and the public in the week leading up to the game.

Prince asked the students if any of the ads had made them more interested in a company.

“I hope I can make enough money where I can look into buying an Audi,” said one female student, who was impressed by the company’s ad promoting equal pay for women.

Another car company, however, made less of an impression.

Alfa Romero spent “about $50 million” on ads and for the rights to sponsor the halftime show, said Prince, who asked if his 30 students took note of the company. Receiving no feedback, he said, “That’s kind of scary for them.”