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Measuring The Long-term “Success” Of A Super Bowl Ad Campaign

Analyzing the influx of buzz around the ad can give a brand a serious boost in momentum. What we don’t really discuss is how the advertising holds up over the course of the year or even longer in the brand’s lifetime.

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Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, the only ad I remember from this year’s Super Bowl is PuppyMonkeyBaby. Is it memorable? Yes, like a recurring nightmare from childhood is memorable. Will it drive product sales? Not for me; if I had not just looked at the ad, I couldn’t tell you that it was for Mountain Dew. And that is the point of today’s post by Rebecca Brooks of Alter Agents: long term success of an ad campaign must be correlated to long term sales (or whatever action the advertiser is trying to prompt), not just YouTube views or social shares. Virality and buzz are essential components of success for sure, but the bottom line impact is always on the desired behavior change. Rebecca reminds us that this is a complex process to measure that requires long term investment to do well.

Unlike PuppyMonkeyBaby, which we hope disappears from our collective consciousness as quickly as it appeared.


By Rebecca Brooks

For advertisers, the day after the Super Bowl is one of the most anxious days of the year.  If your client has some skin in the Super Bowl ad game, you and your agency are on pins and needles waiting for the pollsters and social media analysts to weigh in on the success or failure of your campaign.  The event is so massive, that Super Bowl ads permeate pop culture and feed watercooler talk for days following the big event.

The post-mortem is just as critical; analyzing the influx of buzz around the ad can give a brand a serious boost in momentum.  What we don’t really discuss is how the advertising holds up over the course of the year or even longer in the brand’s lifetime.  For a 30-second spot that costs a brand approximately $5 million, a long-term impact should be at least considered if not achieved.

Historically, research has highlighted the stark reality that most people don’t remember Super Bowl ads a year after they’ve aired.  Nor do Super Bowl ads seem to have an impact on purchase intent. If this research is accurate, why is the Super Bowl spot so coveted and why are ad agencies and brands willing to pony up so much of their ad budget for a moment in time?

I suggest much of the research done on Super Bowl advertising is about the practical impact of the ad.  Do you remember it? What was the brand? Would you buy the product because of this ad?  These questions touch on the practical measures of success – will this ad result in sales?  However, the ads can be markedly effective beyond this basic measurement and beyond even the recall of the ad itself.

You only have to look at the number of advertisers that use the Super Bowl platform to revamp or revitalize their brand image.  Of course Apple’s 1984 ad really kicked off this trend. Audi launched a campaign in 2008 that trumpeted the death of old luxury and announced their R8 model.  Buzz and media generated from that one ad put Audi in the center of the luxury automotive conversation where it has remained a major player. Chrysler did the same in 2014 with a bold new take on Detroit luxury with the help of Bob Dylan and has seen growing sales in the last two years. Doritos and Snickers have also revitalized their brands through Super Bowl advertising.  Proctor & Gamble’s Always “Like a Girl” commercial from 2014 even invited viewers to change the entire conversation from glorifying masculine athleticism to advocating female strength as well. There’s no mention of Always’ products in the ad: Instead, it’s a PSA for all of womankind. A heavy-handed one, perhaps — but put it next to the Carl’s Jr. ad, and it’s easy to understand why.

The post Superbowl recall numbers were meaningful for these campaigns, but the objectives go well beyond the next day.  These advertisers were betting on the power of the Super Bowl to propel their repositioning or revitalization for years to come.  When the ad, brand, and creative are all in sync, brands have seen dramatic change from the Super Bowl platform.  As researchers, our objectives and focus on measuring the “success” of a Super Bowl campaign must go beyond the immediate dazzle of the next day to longer-term impact on the overall brand persona.

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