Office Hours: Prashant Malaviya Reviews Super Bowl Advertisements and Discusses Emerging Trends

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Prashant Malaviya, professor of marketing and senior associate dean of MBA programs

Earlier this month, more than 100 million viewers tuned in to watch Super Bowl LVI. The annual sporting event continues to command the largest viewership among national broadcast events, bringing people together for football, food, halftime shows, and – most importantly, for some – Super Bowl commercials. 

The Super Bowl provides an excellent opportunity for brands to capture the attention of a mass audience, leading to expensive and elaborate advertisements spots that are placed throughout the championship game. But as costs rise and consumer preferences change, many brands are shifting their strategies to adapt to current trends. 

To understand the changing dynamics of Super Bowl commercials, Prashant Malaviya, professor of marketing and senior associate dean of MBA programs, discussed some of the most effective ads and campaign strategies of Super Bowl LVI.

1. Which ads did you find the most successful from Super Bowl LVI?

“Successful” is dependent on the objective of the campaign. Coinbase.com very successfully achieved the objective of driving traffic to their website. Toyota’s “Brothers” ad was successful in delivering a very strong emotional story and the brand’s connection to that story. Kia Robot Dog spot was successful in communicating cutting-edge auto technology in a more humane way by including a “dog” that is associated with love and kindness. Finally, Rocket Mortgage’s “Barbie” ad was successful in strengthening its brand equity of convenience and ease of use of the app and the mortgage approval process.

2. What are some effective tactics and strategies that brands use to create a successful Super Bowl ad?

There are several techniques that can be used to create a successful ad, and many were showcased in this year’s Super Bowl commercials:

Use of nostalgic cues: Many brands will connect with their audiences through positive concepts and feelings from the past. Chevy Silverado’s electric vehicle ad did this successfully by featuring The Sopranos in their advertisement, a popular drama TV show from the 1990s. General Motors connected their electric vehicles through the widely popular Dr. Evil character from Austin Powers. E-Trade revived the baby that starred in its commercials over a decade ago. And lastly, Cutwater Spirits created a parody of the Apple Think Different campaign, connecting audiences back to Steve Job’s Apple slogan in the mid-1990s.

Use of celebrities: Celebrities, when used correctly, can be a very effective strategy to increase awareness and leverage the celebrity’s positive associations. This year, BMW’s electric vehicle spot featured Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek in its Zeus- and Hera-themed commercial; Lay’s “Golden Memories” commercial starred Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd; and Amazon’s “Alexa Mind Reader” ad centered on Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost’s relationship (my personal favorites).

Humor: Funny commercials create positive brand associations, capture attention, and can even be linked to higher brand recall. T-Mobile’s “Scrubs” and FTX’s Larry David “Don’t Miss Out on Crypto” spots did a great job of infusing humor into their Super Bowl ads.

Problem-solution format: In this strategy, brands will help consumers identify a problem that can be solved by their product or service. Google Pixel’s ad identified the lack of inclusivity in traditional cameras and smartphone technology, and Vroom’s commercial demonstrated how frustrating and stressful traditional car selling and shopping can be for consumers. 

Gimmick: Some brands will go bold in order to capture attention from the audience. This year, Coinbase.com used a clever DVD-inspired bouncing QR code to encourage Super Bowl viewers to visit the website and participate in a giveaway.

3. In addition to the commercial, we also see companies sharing similar campaign elements across social media, email marketing, and other platforms. Why are brands taking an integrative approach to Super Bowl advertising?

An integrative approach is the “gold standard” in advertising. It is the most effective way to amplify the message, increase awareness, and build brand image. 

While commercial spots typically last 30 seconds, brands that use an integrative marketing approach are able to extend their messages to a variety of platforms, ensuring their campaign extends well beyond the duration of the ad spot. 

They are also able to meet their audience on the platform that resonates with them and captures their attention. Did you miss one of the commercials because you were talking to a friend or looking at your phone? Integrative marketing helps brands mitigate attention diversions through more consistent exposure and messaging.

4. Why do brands frequently use celebrity endorsements for Super Bowl ads?

Celebrities attract attention and therefore, increase brand awareness. Celebrities also have their own image, which is usually positive, and this positive image transfers to the brand as well when they are associated in an advertisement or commercial. 

5. How should brands be measuring the effectiveness of their Super Bowl ads?

Effectiveness should be measured in terms of the goals and objectives. Many companies will evaluate overall brand awareness, brand image, traffic to brand websites, engagement on social media, and ultimately, sales, as part of their campaign analysis.

6. Are there any trends you’re anticipating in future Super Bowl campaigns?

It’s hard to say, but generally, Super Bowl advertising tries to ride the current social zeitgeist. This will continue. The use of tactics that are attention-getting and buzz-worthy also will continue. New trends will be largely determined by trends in the business landscape (i.e. cryptocurrency, EV autos, sustainability themes, and diversity, equity, and inclusion themes).