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By Jessica Pawlarczyk

More than 100 million viewers watched Super Bowl 50 on Sunday. Among those viewers were 69 Kellogg marketing students who participated in the 12th annual Super Bowl Advertising Review, scoring each commercial according to the ADPLAN Framework developed by Professors Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker.

As usual, this year’s Super Bowl was full of ads that either won big with viewers or limped away in defeat.

In the end, Toyota scored highest with Kellogg Ad Review participants, leading the strategic rankings with its “The Longest Chase” ad.

“Toyota’s Prius was a clear winner in this year’s Super Bowl because it kept our attention, had strong linkage to the brand and showcased its benefits,” Professor Rucker said.

Other brands that earned top marks in Kellogg’s rankings include Budweiser, T-Mobile, Doritos, Audi and TurboTax. On the other hand, Squarespace, LG and Acura fumbled during the big game, receiving low grades for less effective ads.

Current students Meg Reed, Paul Ricciuti and Vidya Sathyamoorthy participated in this year’s Super Bowl Advertising Review. Find out what their favorite commercials were and what they learned from the experience.

Meg Reed

Meg ReedWhat was your favorite Super Bowl ad and why?

I absolutely loved the Audi “Choosing the Moon” spot. The story of the astronaut pulled me in emotionally from the beginning with a man lost in thought on the couch. The ad kept me engaged throughout its entirety as the hero felt nostalgia when he gripped the steering wheel, pushed the start button and accelerated instantaneously to top speed. The connections built between driving the Audi V10 and taking off in a rocket elevated the Audi brand, raising its progressive luxury positioning to an aspirational but sentimental place. Because there are so many car-centered commercials aired during the Super Bowl, I think it is especially challenging to stand out, keep viewers’ attention and remain memorable, but “Choosing the Moon” successfully grips the heart and leaves watchers with something to smile about.

What do you believe was the most effective and successful ad based on your ADPLAN framework?

Surprisingly, the PayPal advertisement stood out to me as incredibly effective, particularly as the brand begins to carve out its unique equity in the market. As I evaluate the spot through the ADPLAN framework leveraged for creative assessment at Kellogg, I believe that it grabbed attention with its pop culture background music (“Confident” by Demi Lovato), had strong positioning with its uniquely new money versus old money messaging and exhibited amplification because it gave purpose to my connection with PayPal. I would have preferred to see a bit more linkage, but I still believe the ad was quite effective at brand building overall.

What is the single biggest thing you learned from this experience?

In years past, I have attended Super Bowl ad watch parties but assessed the advertisements with more of a consumer products focus since I was in CPG Brand Management. During this year’s review, however, I expanded my mindset to evaluate commercials across all industries. I learned that what makes a spot effective in one industry (such as automotive) is very similar to what makes an entirely different industry’s ad (like alcoholic beverages) effective as well. Questions like, ‘Is this memorable?’ and ‘Do consumers connect with this?’ are consistent throughout, no matter what the product or service.

Paul Ricciuti

Paul RicciutiWhat was your favorite Super Bowl ad and why?

My favorite Super Bowl ad was T-Mobile’s “The Uncarrier featuring Drake” spot. It was fun, engaging and efficiently communicated the advantages T-Mobile offers over its competitors. T-Mobile managed to attack other wireless carriers while remaining positive and differentiated. “Hotline Bling” worked perfectly with T-Mobile’s message, and Drake came across as endearing. While many ads played the comedy card throughout the Super Bowl, T-Mobile was able to be both funny and socially attuned, which is why I rate it so highly.

What do you believe was the most effective and successful ad based on your ADPLAN framework?

The most effective ad based on ADPLAN would be Toyota’s Prius 4 spot. It grabbed my attention when it started with a bank robbery and held onto my attention as the getaway car turned out to be a (previously meek) Prius. It was differentiated on two fronts: The spot was different from other car ads, and the car itself was a departure from previous Prius models. This spot is meant to defy all preconceptions and reposition the Prius as a car that isn’t just for saving on gas. While some may find that claim hard to believe, Toyota told a fun story and illustrated the car’s benefits while attempting to buck unwanted attributions. Throughout the entire ad, the Prius became the new White Bronco and was never in danger of being mistaken for a different car. Toyota is building on the foundation of the quiet and environmentally friendly Prius by proving that the car offers a lot more. But will it drive sales? After seeing this ad, people may consider researching and possibly purchasing a Prius, whereas previously they wouldn’t have been seen with one. I believe the ad is a great start in convincing consumers that a Prius might actually be the right car for them.

What is the single biggest thing you learned from this experience?

There are too many spots for every consumer to remember every ad, so marketers must ensure that their core consumer reflects positively on what the ad delivers. To do this, marketers must know who they are advertising to and what the audience likes and doesn’t like. A polarizing ad can be effective if the core consumer loves it. A great safety check that helps to determine if the ad’s approach will be successful is the ADPLAN framework because it acts as guardrails for advertising.

Vidya Sathyamoorthy

vidya.sathyamoorthyWhat was your favorite Super Bowl ad and why?

My favorite Super Bowl ad was the Jeep 4x4ever spot because it was engaging, on-brand and memorable. The song in the ad is by no means a background track; rather, it’s the heartbeat, with the lyrics constantly playing off of the words “4×4” and driving the imagery in each scene. The ad pays homage to the history and culture of Jeep (including its military roots and the sense of community among fellow Jeep owners) and emphasizes its role as an iconic American brand by associating it with other deeply American concepts such as freedom and adventure. Overall, I think it raised the net equity of the brand.

What do you believe was the most effective and successful ad based on your ADPLAN framework?

I believe the Prius ad was the most effective and successful based on the ADPLAN framework. It immediately grabbed my attention with a distinct and unusual premise: a Prius as a getaway car in a high-speed car chase. The ad keeps you engaged because of the catchy music and humorous plot. However, this isn’t just for entertainment value – throughout the spot, the jokes highlight the features of the car, which emphasizes its positioning. The chase lasts nearly the whole day (+1 for mileage), the car creeps past sleeping police officers (because of its silent engine) and deftly reverses and maneuvers (great handling). The double entendre of “The Prius Four” (referring to the four robbers in the Prius) shows up throughout the ad in posters and news reports, ensuring linkage to the model name.

What is the single biggest thing you learned from this experience?

I realized that a common thread among the strongest ads, including ads by Prius and Jeep 4X4ever, was an intentional emphasis on what was being advertised from start to finish. Ads that did not emphasize linkage were not memorable, were misattributed or were just plain confusing. LG for example, had me focused on discerning what was being advertised (perhaps a trailer for a new Tron movie?) rather than soaking in the competitive advantage of their new OLED screen. Did they have me engaged? Sure, but at the cost of me completely missing the point of their ad.

Interestingly, when the ad replayed after the Super Bowl was over, I realized there were great references to LG’s value proposition of a futuristically slim screen that were actually fairly obvious for the first 75% of the ad. It’s like watching the Sixth Sense for the second time and noticing that all of the clues were there the whole time. However, during the Super Bowl, at $5 million a spot, you only have one shot to get your message across. Therefore, it is critical to test ads with an audience that has not been primed as to who the advertiser is.

Check out the infographic below to see the winning and losing brands of this year’s Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review:


See a full list of Kellogg’s 2016 Super Bowl Ad Review rankings.