Duane Bonifer  |  Published February 14, 2024

Laughter a Commercial Success

Humor a winning theme in this year’s Super Bowl TV ads, marketing students say.

Business professor Amanda Cleland makes about the television ads broadcast during Super Bowl LVIII. At left is Mo... Business professor Amanda Cleland makes about the television ads broadcast during Super Bowl LVIII. At left is Monmouth business faculty member Tom Prince. MONMOUTH, Ill. – If laughter is the best medicine for the soul, it can also be one of the more effective paths to a successful Super Bowl television advertisement.

That was one of the lessons learned by Monmouth College marketing students who studied the nearly five dozen original ads that aired during the telecast of Super Bowl LVIII, which was produced by CBS and broadcast Sunday on CBS TV stations, the Nickelodeon channel and Paramount+ streaming service.

The students, who are members of professor Amanda Cleland’s “Marketing” class, met Wednesday morning with Cleland and fellow business faculty member Tom Prince to analyze, dissect and examine this year’s Super Bowl TV ads, which cost $7 million per 30 seconds.

According to the class’ two dozen students, the clear commercial winner during this year’s Super Bowl was “The DunKings,” an ad for the coffee and doughnut company Dunkin’ that featured actor Ben Affleck and his wife, actor/singer Jennifer Lopez, as well as actor Matt Damon and pro-football legend Tom Brady.

“It was just a very interesting ad visually, and it kept my attention,” said McKealey Klokkenga ’26 of Delvin, Illinois, who ranked the ad at the top of her list.

A big buy

With an audience of 123.4 million viewers, Super Bowl XLVIII was the biggest event in TV history. As Prince pointed out, that could make a $7 million 30-second ad a good investment, even with some ads costing as much to produce.

“We have a very diverse, large audience watching the Super Bowl, so there are going to be ads that are aimed at certain demographics, psychographics that might not be for you.”

– Amanda Cleland, business professor

“That’s a lot of money, pretty expensive, a big risk to take,” said Prince, who also has a distinguished career in advertising and marketing. “But think of the reward. You have 123 to 124 million people watching the same event. That is approximately about 35-36% of the entire population of the United States. If you can run an ad for $7 million and reach over one-third of the population of the United States, it may be a really good buy. If you run an ad that grabs the audience’s attention, that gets some people talking about it, and causes an action, then it was a very economical, reasonable buy.”

Business faculty member Tom Prince discusses the television ads broadcast during Super Bowl LVIII.... Business faculty member Tom Prince discusses the television ads broadcast during Super Bowl LVIII. Unlike the last several Super Bowls that were set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Super Bowl was far enough removed from a worldwide pandemic that advertisers could embrace more humorous themes, according to Prince.

“Humor was big this year, because we’ve come out of a pandemic,” he said. “During the pandemic, no one knew what to say. … Now we’re to the point where advertisers are saying, ‘It’s OK to have fun, let’s really push humor.’ You saw very few emotional appeals. You saw many more humorous appeals in commercials.”

Because Super Bowl XLVIII attracted the largest audience in TV history, that also meant that a very diverse audience watched the broadcast. That forced brands to conduct extensive research about their audience’s demographics and psychographics, which places consumers into groups according to their shared psychological characteristics.

“We have a very diverse, large audience watching the Super Bowl, so there are going to be ads that are aimed at certain demographics, psychographics that might not be for you,” said Cleland.

But as the “Marketing” class demonstrated, some Super Bowl ads successfully cut across generations, such as “Talkin’ Like Walken,” an ad by carmaker BMW that featured veteran actor Christopher Walken. The ad rated No. 7 on the USA Today “Ad Meter,” received strong reviews by The New York Times television critic, and was also received favorably by the Monmouth students and professors who discussed it.

As Cleland pointed out, the Monmouth group included a class of students from Generation Z (those born between 1997-2012), a professor who is a Millennial (1981-96) and a professor one who is a Boomer (1946-64). The ad also contained the ingredient that was critical to this year’s Super Bowl TV commercials – humor.

“I like Christopher Walken, and I thought the ad was entertaining with impersonations of Christopher Walken,” said Blake Orwig ’26 of Wyoming, Illinois. “I went for ads that had entertainment value.”

Listen Up …

On the “Monmouth College Conversations” podcast, business faculty members Amanda Cleland and Tom Prince are joined by students McKealey Klokkenga ’26, Blake Orwig ’26 and Warren Reed ’26 to discuss Super Bowl LVIII TV ads.

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