Archive for the ‘Results’ Category

The 2014 Super Bowl was a marketing extravaganza. Never has the world seen such massive hype and discussion about advertising; during the two weeks leading up to the game, companies released dozens of teaser spots and social media campaigns.

Advertisers clearly invested heavily in this year’s game; it was a remarkable mix of celebrities, famous songs and special effects. But there were more than just gimmicks this year.

The overall tone was generally upbeat and inspirational. We didn’t see a lot of silly jokes and gags. Instead, advertisers focused on positive, inspirational messages in an attempt to resonate with the consumer heart.

Still, the overall quality of the advertising was fairly mixed, proving once again that a big production budget does not guarantee strong branding or effectiveness.

A group of almost sixty Kellogg students watched the Super Bowl in Evanston and evaluated all the spots. Here are the grades and observations from Professors Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker from the 10th annual Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review.

The Best (A)


Microsoft finished at the top of the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review with an ad that celebrated the power of technology. The ad was emotional; it showed a former NFL player, now battling with ALS, who communicated with Microsoft software.

The ad was particularly notable because it differentiated Microsoft from Apple in a meaningful way. It suggested that while Apple is a cute brand that is good for music and design, Microsoft technology is serious and important.


In Volkswagen’s spot, a father celebrates his car reaching 100,000 miles and explains to his daughter that German engineers earn their wings when a car passes that milestone.

The ad was creative and funny. More important, it conveyed a benefit: that VW has reliable cars. This is an example of solid advertising that weds creative and brand strategy.


Heinz ketchup did well on the Super Bowl with a spot that linked Heinz ketchup with happiness. It was a believable proposition and had very strong branding.


General Mills deserves a lot of credit for risking controversy, at least among some consumers, by airing a spot featuring an inter-racial couple. In 2013 General Mills received quite a lot of negative feedback when it ran an ad with the same couple.

The Cheerios Super Bowl ad was charming. It didn’t say anything specific about the product but the branding was solid and the ad built the imagery of the brand.


Nestle’s Butterfinger brand bought a Super Bowl spot to launch its new peanut butter cups product. The ad featured a couple, one labeled chocolate and the other peanut butter. Butterfinger gets in between them to spice up the relationship. It isn’t an unexpected idea but the ad was creative and got the point across.

Bud/Bud Light

Budweiser aired two dramatic spots that both worked well. One featured the iconic Clydesdale horses interacting with a puppy. The Bud brand team was clearly trying to repeat its 2013 success with this ad. The other spot was a moving tribute to a war veteran. Horses and veterans are safe and popular creative ideas.

The Bud Light creative was daring. Gone were the silly jokes. Instead, we had a remarkable story about a fellow taken on a crazy adventure, dramatizing the line “for whatever happens next.” The new campaign worked well with the Kellogg panel, getting attention with strong branding. The extended version posted above is astonishing.

The Good (B)


In the much-anticipated yogurt bowl, Chobani bested Oikos with a spot that featured a large and rather enraged bear. The ad certainly attracted attention and communicated the brand’s positioning: all-natural.


Doritos aired two spots, both from the Crash the Super Bowl promotion. The first spot, time machine, didn’t work as well as the second. Both spots had solid branding. We wonder if the Doritos Super Bowl formula is starting to lose a little of its impact.


Hyundai aired two spots. The better spot communicated its auto-braking capability; it featured a father saving the day. Hyundai’s other ad featured a clever rhyming scheme. It was catchy but didn’t have a significant message.

Chrysler and Jeep

For the past three years, Chrysler has used a simple strategy for the Super Bowl:  surprise people with big, dramatic spots. In 2011, the ad was a gritty portrait of Detroit. The following year Chrysler used Clint Eastwood. Last year, the company aired an emotional ad for Jeep and another for Dodge Ram.

Chrysler stuck with the formula this year, running a dramatic spot for Chrysler about the value of American manufacturing. The ad featured Bob Dylan. The ad again broke through the clutter and scored well with the Kellogg panel.

Perhaps the one questionable call was that Chrysler went with the line “Let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch.” It seems to weaken the overall argument that it is important to support domestic production.

Chrysler also aired a powerful ad for Jeep. It was a shift from the 2013 execution; it was less about the brand’s military heritage and more about adventure.


RadioShack appealed to 80’s nostalgia and featured a number of classic characters. The basic message: we use to be outdated and now we aren’t. The spot got attention and had strong branding. The only issue was it didn’t give people a reason to visit the new RadioShack.

Wonderful Pistachios

Mixing it up, Wonderful Pistachios opted to cut their advertisement into two parts. In the first part, Stephen Colbert acted as if the product would sell itself. Then, separated by only one short spot, he returned to attempt to sell the brand in a more emphatic fashion. The split spot was interesting and caught the attention of our panel.


M&Ms has become a core Super Bowl advertiser and this year the brand ran another entertaining spot. The ad was distinctive and featured an iconic M&M character being kidnapped and completely unaware of his rather dire predicament.


Getting people to think of Kia as a luxury car is a challenge. The brand’s Super Bowl spot put forth a reasonable argument encouraging people to completely rethink luxury.

The creative broke through the clutter but the branding was relatively weak.

The Average (C)


Coke ran two spots. The first scored well with the Kellogg panel; it celebrated the diversity of America. The second spot showed a small football player running for a touchdown and didn’t work as well; it just wasn’t clear where the little fellow was going or why.


The wireless music system Sonos ran a Super Bowl spot that was quite dramatic but the creative idea overwhelmed the message.


Chevy takes the prize for the saddest Super Bowl ad with a wistful ad about a rural couple dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The message was the Chevy supports World Cancer Day. The brand ran another spot featuring a cowboy transporting a bull.

Chevy gets credit for consistency; the brand seems to be settling on rural America as a base. This is a big step forward; Chevy has to sort out what the brand really stands for. Picking a target is a good first step.

Beats Music

Ellen DeGerenes can dance. Beats made a smart move getting her to endorse its new music service. The issue: the spot didn’t really set up the frame of reference. What is this product, again?


Toyota ran a spot featuring the muppets. The message was that the new Highlander has lots of space. The spot was fine; it didn’t stand out but communicated a message.


Honda focused on safety with its ad featuring Bruce Willis. In the ad, Bruce asked people to hug each other and noted that Honda makes safe cars.

This isn’t a terrible spot but it is tough to differentiate a car brand on safety.

Bank of America

It is a hard to miss with U2 on the Super Bowl. Bank of America invested a ton of money to sponsor U2 and give away one of the band’s songs.

The problem with this sort of marketing is that the sponsor overwhelms the brand; it doesn’t say much about the Bank of America, aside from the fact that the company has enough money to sponsor U2.


Jaguar was a new Super Bowl advertiser this year. The brand ran a big spot featuring British villains and the line “It is good to be bad.” The spot attracted attention but could have had stronger linkage to the car.


You have to give T-Mobile credit for having a focused message. The pitch: you can get rid of your contract by switching to T-Mobile. Tim Tebow was an interesting creative choice; he attracted attention but might have overwhelmed the brand.

Dannon Oikos

Two years ago Dannon ran a terrific Super Bowl ad for Oikos featuring John Stamos. This year it came back for an encore.

The problem was the spot tried to both play into the old execution from two years ago and incorporate Stamos’ old pals from Full House. It ended up being a compromise that didn’t work too well.

Turbo Tax

The Turbo Tax spot described what it is like to watch the Super Bowl when your team is not in it, a clever concept. The problem is the Turbo Tax brand didn’t connect to the concept. This is a classic linkage problem.

American Family Insurance

We can’t remember much about this spot. That is not a great sign.


David Beckham starred in H&M’s spot. The ad was a great piece for Beckham but didn’t say much about H&M’s clothing.

The Bottom (D)


Sprint’s ad featuring the family plan didn’t really break through the Super Bowl clutter.


GoDaddy tried something new this year: run advertising that is less polarizing. The brand didn’t feature attractive and scantily clad ladies. Instead the message was about starting a new business.

By becoming less offensive, GoDaddy also became less memorable and distinctive.

They will be an interesting brand to watch if they come back next year. Do they stick with this new approach or go back to polarizing creative?


There is a difference between having an insight and developing great creative.

The folks at Squarespace identified an important insight: people think the web is a scary place. The problem is that they then didn’t connect the issue to the brand. It was not clear why people should trust Squarespace to make the web safer.


You have to give WeatherTech credit for having a benefit; the brand’s Super Bowl spot clearly celebrated made in America. The problem: it didn’t establish the frame of reference. It wasn’t clear precisely what WeatherTech actually makes.


Maserati started with an epic build that was so powerful it seemed like a movie trailer.

The young child’s narration was particularly arresting. The problem was that the ultimate reveal did not feel satisfying.


SodaStream’s partnership with Scarlett Johansson fell flat with the Kellogg panel. The fact that the ad stated that the spot should go viral did not help— people want to determine what is viral, not be told.

Intuit QuickBooks

It is hard enough to communicate one brand. One brand sponsoring an ad from another brand is more confusing. In this spot, Intuit tried to run an ad for a small company called Goldieblocks that was sponsored by QuickBooks. It was a neat concept but the execution left much to be desired.


When you come to the Super Bowl the creative needs to be fresh and engaging. This spot was rather plain; it just didn’t stand out.


Unilever’s Axe brand shifted strategy for the Super Bowl. Instead of talking about sex appeal, the brand embraced the more inspirational message of “make love, not war.”

The spot did not resonate with the Kellogg panel, suffering from weak linkage between the creative idea and the product.


Apparently Subway purchased a Super Bowl spot at the very last-minute. The creative was consistent with this; it just didn’t have the distinctiveness needed to stand out.


The CarMax spot featured people slow clapping a fellow after he purchases a car at CarMax. The problem is that it isn’t clear why they are clapping. It also isn’t clear if a slow clap is a positive or a negative; some members of the Kellogg panel through it felt like a sarcastic gesture.


Audi scored at the bottom of the Kellogg rankings this year.

The brand’s Super Bowl spot featured rather disturbing dogs. The point was that compromise is bad and Audi doesn’t compromise. We suspect most people will just remember the disturbing dogs. This is a classic amplification problem.

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The pressure on the Super Bowl is simply relentless. The audience is huge, and people scrutinize every move and are quick to praise or, more likely, criticize. This is true for the players as well as the advertisers.

How are advertisers responding to the pressure? As one might expect, they are playing it safe, with several clearly using proven concepts and techniques, and spending significant time and money testing.

Not surprisingly, the quality of the 2012 Super Bowl advertising was generally high, with little to offend the masses. While some people will criticize the lack of big ideas, most brands will be happy with the results.

Still, the eighth Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review produced some clear winners, including some new names at the top of the list.


M&M’S (A)

M&M’S was the top brand in this year’s Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review. The spot did everything a good Super Bowl ad needs to do: it was attention-getting, well-branded and entertaining.

The animated M&M’S are highly effective branding ambassadors: put them in the spot and the branding is crystal clear.


Honda (A)

Honda masterfully built pre-game buzz, releasing a 10-second teaser on the web that got people talking and then releasing a longer version of the final spot well before the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl spot still worked; the concept was distinctive and engaging, and it clearly highlighted the new CR-V.


Skechers (A)

It is a bit of a surprise to see Skechers in the top group of advertisers on the Super Bowl. This brand is a regular on the game, but often near the bottom of the list.

The spot clearly communicated a benefit: speed. And it did so in a playful manner, with a tone that fit the Super Bowl environment.


Dannon (A)

Dannon’s spot avoided lots of special effects and stuck to a simple story line. A couple enjoys a tasty cup of Oikos yogurt. The lady wallops the guy to defend her share: the yogurt is just that good.

Let’s give Dannon credit for strong branding and fresh execution.

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Chrysler (B)

Last year Chrysler ran one of the top spots on the Super Bowl with a gritty and distinctive ad featuring Eminem.

This year, Chrysler followed the same approach, albeit with a different message.

Chrysler was once again one of the biggest surprises. First, the ad ran during halftime, which is unusual since most national ads run during the game itself. The timing, of course, was critical to the overall message. Second, Chrysler didn’t release any information in advance, a sharp departure from most advertisers. It was an eagerly anticipated spot in the advertising world. Third, the ad delivered an unexpected message: it’s halftime in America and we’re going to rebound through hard work and determination.

The ad worked in many ways. It got attention, was distinctive and had strong amplification.

So why did the Kellogg panel give it a B?

The main issue is positioning. The spot is about American industry, or perhaps American automakers. It isn’t specifically about Chrysler. Indeed, the company watered down the whole spot by featuring all their brands at the end of the spot.

Overall, a solid spot, but Chrysler missed an opportunity to keep building the Chrysler brand.


Chevrolet (B)

GM’s Chevrolet was perhaps the premier advertiser of the first half. The brand ran three spots: an ad for its Silverado truck; a second spot for its new small car, the Sonic; and a final ad for its sports car, the Camaro.

Chevy spared no expense on these ads. The Silverado spot, set at the end of the world, appeared to be a big budget extravaganza that delivered a benefit, though perhaps not in a credible fashion. The Sonic ad was about as expensive and stunning an ad as you will ever see, featuring a sky-diving car. Perhaps it will be embraced by the Navy SEALs. And the Camaro spot was simple. It was unique because it was created through crowd-sourcing.

Overall this collection of ads worked well. They were distinctive, got awareness and had strong branding.

The Kellogg panel scored the Camaro ad below the other two, which left Chevrolet with a B.

The ads highlight Chevrolet’s branding challenge: what precisely is a Chevy? Is it a brand of sports cars, tough trucks or light, durable fun cars?


Fiat (B)

Fiat has a clear positioning: It is a sexy Italian car, one that turns heads. And Fiat’s Super Bowl ad brought this positioning to life with a visual, striking ad featuring (surprise!) a sexy Italian model.

The spot worked well overall but perhaps featured a bit too much of the sexy model. One wonders if we shouldn’t’ have seen more of the car.



You have to salute E*TRADE for consistency; the brand uses the talking baby with incredible consistency. And it continues to work.

This year’s spot was a bit hard to follow, but it doesn’t really matter for a brand with established Super Bowl equity: just seeing the baby ensures that people get the point. Of course, one does wonder when fans will tire of the campaign.

Placement matters and didn’t help E*TRADE this year; the spot ran right after a Doritos ad also featuring a cute baby.


Kia (B)

The Kellogg student panel put Kia in the top group, and we think that was probably on the kind side. The spot was distinctive; it was a bold, visually stunning extravaganza communicating the point that the Kia is the car of your dreams.

But is the basic premise believable?

Kia appears to have a fundamental positioning problem. Why should someone buy a Kia? It seems like a decent, cheap car. But saying it is the car of your dreams is quite different indeed. To make this claim moving forward Kia needs a huge repositioning.


CareerBuilder (B)

This year CareerBuilder brought back the chimps again, running another in the series of CareerBuilder’s entertaining commercials featuring chimps. The concept worked originally and it still works. Using the chimps is distinctive and ensures people know it is a spot for CareerBuilder: branding is very strong.

CareerBuilder received a lot of criticisms for using chimps due to concern about how they are treated. Stuart Elliot of The New York Times even called them nitwits. We wouldn’t be surprised if CareerBuilder takes time to reevaluate the use of the chimps as they think about next year’s Super Bowl.


Samsung (B)

Last year, Motorola ran a spot attacking Apple. This year, Samsung took a shot, running an ad that delivered a solid message: everyone loves Apple but the products aren’t as good as Samsung.

Samsung made the point in an effective fashion but I don’t think anyone really cares. At the moment, people will happily buy an inferior product as long as it is from Apple.

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Coke (C)

Coke made two big moves this year. First, the brand embraced the polar bears, a classic branding icon. Second, Coke created a streaming website that featured the polar bears reacting to the game as it went along.

Both moves seemed like good ideas but in the end things didn’t quite work. The three polar bear spots became repetitive as the novelty wore out. And the streaming polar bears were really dull.

Coke ran right into a classic creative challenge: Making things interesting while sticking to a creative theme. Coke embraced the theme but ended up with creative that lacked punch.


Bud/Bud Light (C)

Bud and Bud Light are usually at the top of the Kellogg review, so it will surprise many to see them receiving a grade of C this year.

The grade is a bit misleading, however. Bud Light ran a classic funny, entertaining Super Bowl ad featuring a dog “WeGo.” This spot worked well; it was the sort of spot people expect to see on the Super Bowl. Budweiser ran two spots that referenced the brand’s long heritage and quality. These worked well, too; they were engaging and had strong branding.

AB got into trouble with Bud Light Platinum. The company ran two spots for Bud Light Platinum in the first half, including the all-important first ad in the game. The ads fell flat: They were very product focused, which is good, but they lacked the creative punch needed to stand out on the Super Bowl.

Bud Light Platinum might have a more significant strategic problem: What precisely is this brand? The ads didn’t make that clear, or at least it wasn’t clear to the Kellogg panel. The problem here might be deeper than the creative.


Bridgestone (C)

We were surprised to see the Kellogg student panel give Bridgestone a C this year, since we thought the spots were very strong. The branding was clear and the ads delivered a benefit: traction in the first ad, and quiet in the second ad.

Bridgestone has been a consistent Super Bowl advertiser, running spots that were distinctive but didn’t communicate a clear product benefit. This year the brand shifted focus and discussed benefits, which seems like a step forward.


Best Buy (C)

Some ads are a challenge to produce. You look at the spot and just know that the team behind it had to work incredibly hard to make it happen. You can put the Best Buy spot on that list.

The Best Buy ad featured a series of creative people who invented many of the things we now take for granted in the world of technology. It was remarkable to see them featured together in the same spot.

The problem: What does this have to do with Best Buy?

This spot had a linkage problem; there wasn’t much to connect the creative idea, the inventors, to the product being sold, Best Buy.


Teleflora (C)

Wow. Teleflora really pushed the edge this year, telling the men of America to get some flowers so that you’ll later get some action. The ad advised, “Give and you shall receive.”

You have to give them credit for focusing on a benefit.

The ad focused on selling the category (flowers) over the brand (Teleflora). This was clearly a strategic choice, but a debatable one.

As one might expect, this ad was highly polarizing. Some members of the Kellogg panel gave it a very high score while others found it highly offensive.

You have to respect the folks who approved this idea: they certainly took a risk on this one. It may likely sell a lot of flowers.


Audi (C)

Audi has used the Super Bowl to rebuild its brand, running a series of powerful spots over the past five years.

This year, Audi ran another big spot, a visually stunning story featuring exploding vampires. The ad focused on Audi’s bright headlights that turn night into day (and cause vampires to explode).

This spot fell a bit flat. Perhaps the core problem was the strategy: the ad focused on headlights. Now there are many reasons why people choose one car over another, but we suspect the headlights are rarely the differentiator.


VW (C)

This was a disappointing Super Bowl for VW. The brand ran the stand-out spot in 2011, a charming spot featuring a child Darth Vader character. This year VW worked very hard to do it again, releasing an elaborate teaser spot and then charming spot about a dog.

VW’s campaign was highly successful at generating buzz; the teaser spot received more than 10 million views on YouTube even before the game started.

But the Super Bowl disappointed many in our panel in the end. Branding and linkage were both fairly weak. Indeed, the spot didn’t make entire sense, with the dog working for months to lose weight in order to chase the new VW. Of course, after months the car wouldn’t still be new. The brand’s own internal dialogue of which spot was better was also viewed as odd by several people.


Met Life (C)

New advertiser Met Life did a fine job attracting attention; the spot featured a collection of familiar animated characters. The ad built on the Met Life’s brand equity, another positive. But the branding and benefit were both fairly weak.


Doritos (C)

This year we saw another year of Crash the Super Bowl and another collection of consumer-generated spots.

Doritos deserves credit for consistency; the brand has stuck with its proven formula for many years. This year the promotion focused just on Doritos, a positive change from last year when Pepsi Max joined the party.

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Cadillac (D)

An ad has to stand out to be successful. This is always the case, but particularly so on the Super Bowl.

Cadillac ran a spot that featured a car driving around a track. This just isn’t enough for the Super Bowl.


GE (D)

Here is a simple question: Why is GE running ads on the Super Bowl?

There are a lot of smart people at GE, and they understand the value of a dollar. So why did they invest upwards of $10 million in the Super Bowl?

GE ran one spot that told us the company made turbines that generate electricity, and we need electricity to have cold beer. And what is the point of this message for the hundred million people who watched it, 99.9 million of whom will never interact with a turbine in their life? Is this an employee morale booster? Are we supposed to have fond feelings for GE?

GE ran another spot saying they are hiring workers at their appliance factory. Is this an attempt to build affinity for the brand when other companies have been laying people off?

There must be a reason why GE ran these ads, but we have to struggle to put the pieces together. Can anyone help us on this?


Lexus and Toyota (D)

This was a tough Super Bowl for the Toyota Corporation, owner of the Lexus and Toyota brands. Both brands received a D from the Kellogg panel, though for different reasons.

The Lexus spot just wasn’t distinctive. The ad featured a sleek new car breaking out of a box. This isn’t enough to stand out on the Super Bowl or to meet “Super Bowl worthy” expectations.

Toyota’s spot was about reinvention. It was a cute spot but didn’t say enough about the car: What is new about the car, anyway? It was pretty good to start with, so what is now improved?


Go Daddy (D)

The Kellogg panel put Go Daddy at the bottom of the list. There were two key problems. First, Go Daddy’s spots are highly polarizing, offending a portion of the panel. Second, the message really didn’t come across: What is the product, again? What is the benefit?

Still, Go Daddy has effectively used polarizing Super Bowl ads to build its brand. CEO Bob Parsons freely admits the ads offend many but put the brand on the map. Although the Super Bowl spots do not optimize their branding like other brands, it is the larger part of the media campaign they run that compensates for these faults, not justifies them.

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There were three big themes from the 2012 Super Bowl:

  • High demand: Super Bowl ads sold out early and at a high price. This is an encouraging sign for the economy.
  • Integrated campaigns: Super Bowl advertisers truly embraced integrated marketing, using social media, PR and promotions to build excitement and capitalize on the power of the event.
  • Safety: Marketers didn’t take enormous risks on the Super Bowl this year. There was less offensive content this year, aside from Go Daddy’s now familiar approach, which has become brand consistent material. But this makes sense; when the stakes are this high the upside is easily outweighed by the potential risks.

Look for even higher prices and more integrated campaigns next year: These are trends we will be seeing for a long time to come.

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Why did Chrysler get a B?

We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz this morning about the Chrysler ad and why it didn’t top our panel’s list.

Last year, Chrysler ran one of the top spots on the Super Bowl with a gritty and distinctive ad featuring Eminem. This year, Chrysler followed the same approach with Clint Eastwood, albeit with a different message.

Chrysler was once again one of the biggest surprises. First, the ad ran in during halftime, which is unusual since most national ads run during the game itself. The timing, of course, was critical to the overall message. Second, Chrysler didn’t release any information in advance, a sharp departure from most advertisers. It was an eagerly anticipated spot in the advertising world. Third, the ad delivered an unexpected message: it’s halftime in America and we’re going to rebound through hard work and determination.

The ad worked in many ways. It got attention, was distinctive and had strong amplification.

So why did the Kellogg panel give it a B?

The main issue is positioning. The spot is about American industry, or perhaps American automakers. It isn’t specifically about Chrysler. Indeed, the company watered the whole thing down by featuring all their brands at the end of the spot.

Overall, a great spot, but Chrysler missed an opportunity to keep building the Chrysler brand.

We’ll be updating the blog later today with complete thoughts on many of the ads that ran last night. Learn how we grade our ads via our ADPLAN framework.

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