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News & Events

Microsoft Tops 2014 Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review CarMax, SUBWAY and Audi Finish in the Bottom

EVANSTON, Ill., (Feb. 3, 2014) –Microsoft earned top marks for its “Empowering” ad, winning the 10th Annual Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review. Other 2014 top-ranked advertisers include Cheerios, Heinz, Volkswagen, Butterfinger and Budweiser, while CarMax, SUBWAY and Audi ranked at the bottom.

“Microsoft not only led the ranking, it also embodied the inspirational tone of many of the ads this year,” said Tim Calkins, Clinical Professor of Marketing at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “This sentiment also was reflected in the Cheerios and Heinz ads, both of which elicited the basic good feelings consumers associate with the brands.” 

Audi finished at the bottom of the ranking, mainly because the ad featured a somewhat disturbing dog character that overwhelmed the brand. Other ads that fell flat include CarMax and SUBWAY; the CarMax ad was slightly confusing and the SUBWAY spot didn’t have the creativity required to break through the clutter.

“Many advertisers this year used emotion in the Super Bowl spots,” said Derek D. Rucker, Sandy & Morton Goldman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies in Marketing at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who also leads the Review. “In some cases, however, the creative idea overshadowed the brand.”

Unlike other popularity-based reviews, the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review uses a strategic academic framework known as ADPLAN.  The acronym, developed by Kellogg School faculty, instructs viewers to grade ads based on Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity.

“The ad series, such as Wonderful Pistachios and Bud Light, grabbed my attention. I thought it was interesting to see how the ads built off one another to tell a story and reinforce the brand and its message,” added Christine Fraser, one of the 50 Kellogg MBA students who participated in the Ad Review panel.

A full list of the rankings is available here. A forthcoming post-game video and infographic showcasing the Kellogg School Super Bowl Ad Review results will be available here on Monday, Feb. 3. 

To learn more about the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, visit

For more information about the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, visit

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