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Humor Wins in 2018 Super Bowl Commercials

What emotions used in advertising resonated with consumers during the Super Bowl? Find out in these eye tracking surveys.

It’s that time of year again! In the midst of a contentious fight for the Vince Lombardi trophy and title of the best football team in the world, brands fight for the attention of 70+ million attentive viewers during the 3+ hour epic television event. Millions of dollars and a significant chunk of annual advertising budgets go towards making short but lasting impressions in hopes of winning new customers and promoting brand awareness on one of advertising’s largest stages.

In our analysis of Super Bowl commercials last year, we found that many commercials contained political statements that emotionally fell flat and left viewers puzzled and generally uninterested. While we did see an example of this in Dodge Ram’s commercial which, in a risky and ultimately controversial move, used a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sermon to sell cars, this year we generally noticed a shift back to the use of humor. This tends to be a more traditional approach to Super Bowl commercials and as discussed in our previous post on emotions and advertising, a more effective one. Brands that elicit a strong emotional response, happiness in particular, make products easier to remember and more likely to be purchased.

We chose to test one of the funnier commercials from this year’s Super Bowl, M&M’s advertisement featuring actor Danny DeVito, and compared it to two of the more popular commercials from 2017. Here is what we found:

The M&M’s characters and Danny DeVito were seen by 100% of viewers and received 8.3 seconds and 11 seconds of visual attention respectively. For two thirds of the 30 second spot, viewers were watching either the M&M characters or Danny DeVito. M&M’s mascots embody both the brand’s logo and the actual candy, making it ideal for them to command much of the viewers’ attention. Having a memorable, well-liked celebrity like Danny DeVito in a commercial also significantly increases brand recall.

The emotion most expressed during the commercial was “joy”. The first 9 seconds are emotionally neutral until the male M&M inadvertently turns into Danny DeVito. At this point, the percentage of respondents experiencing joy reaches 13% and persists for the next 5 seconds as Danny DeVito excitedly asks people on the streets of New York “Do you want to eat me?”. The next emotionally impactful moment is when Danny DeVito gets hit by a truck, with joy peaking at 15%. This is appropriately timed with the M&M’s logo appearing 3 seconds later, ensuring the funniest and most emotionally impactful moment of the commercial aligns with the primary branding moment. 95% of viewers saw the logo for the 2 seconds it was shown.

 

 

In the survey portion, brand recall was 100% and 85% of viewers said the commercial made them feel either joy (60%) or surprise (25%). Lastly, 71% of viewers were “very likely” or “likely” to purchase M&Ms after seeing this commercial. By using a well-known comedic actor and getting viewers to laugh early and often, M&M’s created an incredibly effective and engaging commercial. But how does it compare to commercials from 2017?

In the 2017 Skittles commercial, it takes nearly 13 seconds for any joy to be expressed by viewers and the peak of 14% joy isn’t reached until the very end of the 30 second spot. While this times the peak perfectly with the main moment of branding, many viewers are likely to have lost interest within the first 13 seconds. In the survey portion, brand recall was 100% and 73% of viewers said the commercial made them feel either joy (61%) or surprise (12%). Lastly, 63% of viewers were “very likely” or “likely” to purchase Skittles after seeing this commercial. Overall, while this commercial was well received, Skittles was outperformed by M&M’s due to delayed emotional engagement and lack of a celebrity presence.

 

 

In the 2017 Snickers commercial, it takes over 25 seconds for any emotion to be expressed by viewers and the peak of 13% joy isn’t reached until 46 seconds, right before the end of the commercial. This emotional peak is also timed well with the main moment of branding, but like the Skittles commercial, viewers likely lost interest within the first 25 seconds. In the survey portion, brand recall was 90% and only 54% of viewers said the commercial made them feel either joy (25%) or surprise (29%). Lastly, only 49% of viewers were “very likely” or “likely” to purchase Snickers after seeing this commercial. Overall, while the Snickers commercial did use celebrity actor Adam Driver as its main subject, it took entirely too long for viewers to be emotionally engaged, diminishing brand recall and likeliness to purchase the product.

 

 

The main takeaways: engage early, make them laugh, use a celebrity (if you can afford it), and test your commercials! These findings as always highlight the importance of pretesting videos and other advertising content in order to understand how they will perform in-market and ensure you’re making the most of, in this case, a very expensive ad spot!

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