One of the attractions of advertising in the Super Bowl is that most consumers want to watch, and are even excited to watch, the advertisements. Indeed, with the high production values and immense creative energy funneled into a Super Bowl advertisement, this fact should not be surprising. The surprise that might come to advertisers, however, is that getting consumers’ attention does not guarantee that they will remember the brand at all.
Let me share two of my favorite examples of this. First, Ameriquest (a mortgage company) participated in the Super Bowl for several years with their slogan, “Don’t judge too quickly.” The ads were funny and witty, and to this day when I show them in my advertising course they are sure to get a laugh. However, when I ask my students what the execution was for, a sizeable number of them don’t know. These are smart students who are watching the ad in the context of learning about it…surely the fault cannot all rest with them. Rather, the brand failed to make good linkage with the execution. Consumers remembered the execution but not the brand. Indeed, anecdotally, I recall websites giving Ameriquest awards like, “the brand whose ad I liked the most, but whose brand I forgot the fastest.” Certainly, this is not an enviable position.
A second notable execution is the Super Bowl ad featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird shooting baskets for a prized McDonald’s Big Mac. This is an all-time favorite commercial that has received praise from various sources. However, the praise of this execution is marred by a forgotten fact. About a third of consumers thought the commercial was for Nike. Indeed, with Michael Jordan as a spokesperson for Nike and the commercial revolving around the academic feat of shooting baskets (and these were insane shots) one could see how this could be misattributed to Nike. Of course, this was not only bad news for McDonald’s, but also for Converse. Larry Bird had been a longtime Converse endorser, and labeling this as a Nike commercial cast doubt on his allegiances.
The lesson for Super Bowl advertisers: even with consumer attention likely to be high, do not assume brand linkage. Keep your ads creative and funny, but leave little doubt in consumers’ minds who they are intended for.
– Derek Rucker