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Students share their marketing insights with Professor Tim Calkins during the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review on Feb. 4.

Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review scores Sprint best, Garmin worst of Super Bowl XLI ads

2/4/2007 - K-Fed serving up fries. Amateur commercial directors. But no monkeys in suits. This year’s Super Bowl ads offered “safe” humor, and Sprint came away with the win. The telecommunications giant earned an A with this year’s highest score from the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review. The panel scored Garmin the lowest.

“Super Bowl advertisers played it safe this year,” said Kellogg School of Management Clinical Professor Tim Calkins, who spearheaded the Review. “We did not see a lot of risk-taking even though several advertisers, like Frito-Lay, experimented with consumer-generated content. In the end, the brands that did the best were able to entertain while delivering a clear product message.”

During Super Bowl XLI, advertisers paid up to $2.6 million for a 30-second chance to debut innovative commercials in front of America’s largest audience. For the third year, marketing faculty and members of the Kellogg Marketing Club convened in Evanston, Ill., to watch the event, rate the advertisements on a series of predetermined criteria and produce a final ranking of the most – and least – successful ads from this year’s Super Bowl.

The panel’s favorite individual ads were Anheuser-Busch’s “Wedding” and “No Speak English” spots for Bud Light. “With an image-based category such as beer, Bud Light does a great job of grabbing a consumer’s attention and reinforcing their branding,” said Kellogg second-year student Rachel Zlotoff.

“Advertisers look for the Monday morning water-cooler effect, the ad everybody’s still talking about the next day,” said Calkins. “Advertisements are a business tool, and while they may be entertaining, they also need to convey a message or direction. It’s not very impactful if you’re laughing but don’t remember who made you laugh or why.”

Five advertisers, listed alphabetically, were awarded a grade of “A” by the Kellogg School Review panel: Blockbuster, Budweiser, FedEx, Snickers and Sprint. Sprint was the highest ranked advertiser, followed by Blockbuster. The panel thought Blockbuster was particularly effective in reaching consumers in one of the first commercials aired. “The top-ranked advertisers delivered on branding and creativity and you can see where it paid off,” said Calkins.

The Kellogg School Review panel awarded a grade of “B” to five advertisers:, Coca-Cola, Emerald Nuts, Taco Bell and Toyota.

The panel felt the advertising efforts for the lowest-ranked advertisers did not meet the criteria of a successful ad: Hewlett-Packard, Garmin, Izod, King Pharmaceuticals, and These ads failed to break through in the highly competitive Super Bowl advertising environment.

The 34-member panel ranked each advertiser based on the following criteria: breakthrough, branding, likeability and persuasiveness.

A clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School since 1998, Calkins teaches the courses in marketing strategy and branding, and acts as co-academic director of the school’s branding program. Each year, he provides a well-received Super Bowl advertising review for students, Kellogg School alumni and Harvard Business School alumni. Calkins is co-editor of Kellogg on Branding (John Wiley & Sons, 2005) and the author of numerous Kellogg case studies.

Prior to his academic career, Professor Calkins worked at Kraft Foods for nearly 11 years. He stays connected to the private sector today by consulting for major corporations around the world on marketing strategy and branding issues, and is the managing director of Class 5 Consulting, a marketing strategy firm.

The students serving on the panel belong to the Kellogg Marketing Club, which provides students with academic, recruiting and networking assistance to prepare for marketing careers.

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University was founded in 1908 and is widely recognized as a global leader in graduate business education. The school, located outside of Chicago, is home to a renowned, research-based faculty and MBA students from around the globe. The Kellogg School includes the Full-time, Part-time and Executive MBA programs and the non-degreed Executive Education Program. The school offers three joint degree programs: the JD-MBA, MD-MBA and MEM-MBA. Additionally, the Kellogg School of Management has alliances with business schools in Europe, Asia and Canada.