Ah, the Super Bowl.
A time-honored tradition featuring the two best National Football League teams to decide the season’s champion. The winning team enjoys increased fan support, financial incentives, and, of course, eternal bragging rights.
Over 100 million watch the game from across the country, despite spin-off events such as Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl. 41% of respondents in NRF’s Super Bowl survey said the game was the most important of all the game-day events. The second most important event: the Super Bowl commercials.
Super Bowl ads range from humorous to heartwarming to patriotic to nostalgic. It’s now a tradition for advertisers to create elaborate or outrageous advertisements to stand out with this rapt audience.The frenzy inspired sites like USAToday and Twitter to create ad rankings based on consumer engagement and feedback.
With Super Bowl ad spots costing over $5 million per 30-second spot (this year they cost $5.25 million), commercials are expected (if not required) to perform well among consumers. Marketers face immense pressure to succeed with the correct ad. Ads must emotionally engage consumers to most effectively drive engagement, interest, and brand recall. Unruly’s research showed brand recall scores increased in 2018 as Super Bowl advertisers combined humorous moments with sentimental and emotional pulls. So, which ads performed best according to market research?
Google’s advertisement inspires different emotions: laughter, connection, sentimentality, and relatability just to name a few. It focuses on the different ways people use the translation service, showing diverse cultures, languages, and people. Google’s advertisement inspired the highest emotional engagement in Iposos’ real-time test which measures the respondent’s emotional responses. Commercials were then ranked based on their peak emotional response. According to their research, the highest emotional reaction occurred political protests scene (0:33).
Personally, I felt connected to this commercial as a traveler. I have been in situations where I did not know the language and wanted to convey my thanks or questions to locals. Now, I would consider using Google Translate due to the ease shown in the commercial. For me, the most emotionally driving point was when the commercial stated the number one thing translated on Google is ‘thank you’. No matter the situation, the person, or the country, some things are the same everything – making the world seem smaller and connected.
M&M’s Super Bowl ad focused on an everyday scene: kids misbehaving in the back of the car and the driver gradually getter madder. The kicker: the kids in this commercial are the Red, Yellow, and Orange M&Ms! M&Ms focused on three emotional drivers – humor, relatability, and nostalgia with Christina Applegate. This commercial scored 10 on the emotional scale and a 9.7 on attention according to Realeyes, making it the most emotionally engaging Super Bowl ad. Realeyes utilizes webcams and its face-reading technology to rank ads based on how much attention and emotional engagement they generated from viewers.
Personally, as a millennial who had limited television time growing up, I did not find this to be the most engaging advertisement. However, this Super Bowl commercial was not targeted towards me – I do not have children (even though I have younger siblings) nor did I watch Christina Applegate on television. I did laugh when the M&Ms were the misbehaving children (and when she said that she would eat them if they didn’t stop)! As a market researcher though, I can see the appeal in this Super Bowl advertisement. You do not know who the commercial is for until the very end – adding an element of surprise. Additionally, the humor continually builds throughout the commercial. M&M hopes that all drivers with unruly kids in the back seat will eat an M&Ms chocolate bar next time and find the humor in the situation!
Emotionally driven ads, whether humorous or heartwarming, connect most with consumers. This year’s Super Bowl commercials indicate marketers are focusing on tapping into these emotions utilizing non-conscious system 1 techniques. Who knows, maybe one day the Super Bowl commercials will be more important than the football game. Marketers and advertisers can only dream!
*Interesting note – the highest emotionally engaging advertisements do not always rank high on the ‘popular’ lists. For example, Google’s ad is ranked 9 on USAToday’s ad meter. Neither ad listed here were among Twitter’s Brand Bowl winners. Companies should be aware of these differences when creating the advertisement and during creative testing.
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