By Dr. Robert Passikoff
Not all TV programs are right for all brands. Really. No matter how super they are in attracting an audience, and no matter if you’re actually talking about the Super Bowl itself. Findings from the Brand Keys 12th annual Super Bowl Engagement Survey shows that when it comes to winning, only half of this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII’s advertisers will score big based on their big investments.
Super Bowl advertiser playbooks have brands wishing for ads that score big: big audiences, big creative, big buzz, and big emotional engagement. Well, all advertisers can count on at least two of those wishes to come true, because the Super Bowl is always a showcase of big creative and always attracts big audiences. Usually 150 or 160 million viewers, sometimes more depending on which teams reach the title game. It’s a fun and entertaining few hours, especially the advertising.
And as much fun as the ads can be, ultimately all advertising should be judged not just how an ad entertains, but how it performs off the field – in the marketplace arena. Does the ad engage and build the brand? Does it build a brand defense against competition? Does it engage powerfully enough to drive sales? Because, ultimately, that’s how brands really keep score. Super Bowl advertisers are already guaranteed awareness in a game known as much for the payers as it is for the players. Viewers actually go out for pizza and beer runs during the game, so they don’t miss the ads. And with this year’s ad costs upwards of $134,000 per second, brands that can afford that aren’t usually in the game competing for an awareness trophy.
To find out which of the 29 brands reported in the press to be Super Bowl advertisers were going to rack up big numbers on the engagement scoreboard on February 2nd, Brand Keys conducted its annual Super Bowl Engagement Survey, polling a national sample of 1,660 men and women who indicated they were going to watch the big game, and measured to what degree advertiser brand values were influenced à la engagement just by appearing on the Super Bowl.
In this instance you need more than a 2-point conversion to ensure an engagement touchdown. Advertisers are classified, as “winners” (scoring 5 or more points, an engagement touchdown), “losers” (getting sacked and ending up losing 5 or more engagement points), and brand “draws” (where engagement ratings are left unaffected, a kind of very expensive advertising version of “no harm, no foul.”) Here are this year’s results:
|Doritos +13||Pepsi +9||Budweiser||Jaguar -5|
|Coca Cola +12||Butterfingers +8||Cheerios||Dannon -6|
|Hyundai +11||Wonderful Pistachios +8||Chrysler||H&M -8|
|M&M’s +11||SodaStream +7||GM||Oikos -8|
|Axe +10||Toyota +6||KIA||Volkswagen -8|
|GoDaddy +10||Audi +5||Squarespace -9|
|Heinz +9||TurboTax -10|
|Old Spice +9||Intuit -12|
And as much fun as it is watching and talking about Super Bowl ads, push-to-shove, in their heart-of-hearts, but particularly on their bottom lines, all clients want more than just knowing they were seen and/or buzzed, twittered, emailed, texted, posted, Facebooked or Pinterested about.
Yes, Monday-morning creative quarterbacking is interesting, talk is generated, social networks tracked and percentages of ad “discussion” calculated and reported, numbers of GIFs tallied, and all that’s fine, but it’s not enough. Or shouldn’t be. With 30-second spots selling for $4 million this year (plus mind-bogglingly mammoth production costs), it should be a whole new game plan when it comes to ad effectiveness and ROI. It’s nice to entertain, but it’s always more profitable if you engage. Some brands are able to do both, but it’s always a lot harder than just casting celebrities, cute kids, or a Clydesdale colt in your ad.
Think of being seen as the ad effectiveness pre-game show. When the brand gets into people’s living rooms or on to their mobile devices, it doesn’t matter how many consumers tweet about the ad if it doesn’t increase engagement levels and sales. Otherwise the brand ends up with a lot of buzz and not a lot of buy. On Super Bowl Sunday, when attention is literally paid to all, the final play that matters isn’t what ad made us laugh or cry hardest, but which ad moved target consumers closer to the brands sending the messages, i.e., engages them in a way that engenders A) the view that the brand better meets expectations consumer hold for the Ideal in the category in which the brand competes, and B) results in positive behavior toward the brand.
The final score: Engagement assessments are separate and apart from audience numbers, and can provide a brand team with a really reliable scouting report about how super their media buy and brand engagement will be. The Super Bowl Engagement Survey, like the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, is measuring true engagement and, thus, predictively measures consumers’ emotional and rational reactions to brands in the context of the medium, with results that correlate very highly with consumer behavior, a champion leading-indicator of brand purchase, and that have been validated as reliable predictors of future brand profitability.
A laugh, a sigh, a tweet, even a tear alone isn’t really an acceptable return on a budget spend this big. And as this is the Super Bowl we’re talking about, we’ll close with this thought: There is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but there is one in ‘Return-On-Investment.’