Guess Who Really Won The Super Bowl? Coca-Cola & McDonalds

Kellogg marketing professors Derek Rucker (left) and Tim Calkins at last year's Super Bowl Advertising Review

Kellogg marketing professors Derek Rucker (left) and Tim Calkins at  Super Bowl Advertising Review

According to Rucker, the framework principles are grounded in academic research, providing a consistent and proven method for measuring an ad’s success. However, the framework also appeals to practitioners like professor Tim Calkins, who has co-led the review with Rucker since 2005. In fact, Rucker and Calkins are in complete agreement on how the framework clarifies what truly comprises a great spot.

“The reality is,” Rucker gushes, “the framework captures something true on how people process information and why they respond to brand. By capturing that truth, it remains relevant today, just as it was 10 years ago, and just as it will be 10 years from now.” However, Rucker adds a caveat about the framework. “It is only as good as the strategist who wields it. How well you use the framework will determine your successes.”


And that outlook was the inspiration behind the Super Bowl Ad Review. Long before the review, Kellogg students are exposed to the ADPLAN n courses like Advertising Strategy. However, the classroom doesn’t necessarily simulate a real world application of the framework. “In class,” Rucker observes, “you have a more scripted environment. You have the luxury to talking about ads for five to ten minutes in class and really digging deep with the framework.”

However, the review requires a faster application of the framework, with students pinballing from one ad to the next. “We take framework and reinforce it in real time in environment,” says Rucker. “We’re providing a high stakes environment for making practice perfect.”

Even more, the Super Bowl provides the perfect lab for applying ADPLAN due to the range of execution among ads. “Not every Super Bowl ad is perfect or strategically sound,” Rucker points out. “And that’s exciting. [You can see] which advertisers blew it (and why). They will see the advertisers make the same oversights that they are learning to avoid here.” As a result, the ads really drive home the fundamentals students learn in the classroom.

Super Bowl

Despite applying a set framework that they’d previously mastered, these students weren’t always in lock-step about which ads were good. William Brennan Connor, a second year from Philadelphia, witnessed his peers coming away with different perspectives on the same spot. “[You need to] keep in mind, even students with a lot of similarities and using same framework can differ.”


For Rucker, Super Bowl ads must marry two components: Great strategy with great creative. And Raymond Wei-Leun Hwang, a first-year from DC, echoes those sentiments. Previously, he had evaluated ads emotionally, based mostly off the creative. At Kellogg, Wei-Leun Hwang has learned to be more strategic and evaluate execution from various points besides creative.

More important, Kellogg has changed his mindset when watching ads. He jokes that brands advertising during the Super Bowl “have an army of strategists and so much horsepower – and still produce poor ads.” He attributes it to marketers being too familiar with their brand. As a result, he plans to look at ads through the eyes of the audience.

Like many, Connor occasionally struggled with the rapid-fire nature of assessing ads during the Ad Review. However, he sees a silver lining in the exercise. “The fact that I can apply [the framework] under difficult circumstances when the stakes are high. [It’s going to be] more comfortable when I’m in an office and thinking about execution.

Connor also came away with a heightened awareness of what could sink a spot. “There are some commonalities in why [ads] succeed in fail. The ad is not strongly link to the brand or fails to get attention. These are common pitfalls that I’ll take away as well.”


And you won’t find a bigger stage to succeed for fail than the Super Bowl. It has something for everyone. Forget a game that’s mixes chess with carnage. For many, the Super Bowl is an excuse to come together, to eat, chat, tweet, and hate on the halftime performer. And this year was no different. Based on the early returns, Super Bowl XLIX viewership may surpass last year’s high mark of 112.2 million viewers.

That’s one reason why advertisers flock to the Super Bowl. In an era of segmented audiences and TiVoing, the Super Bowl is the one chance for advertisers to reach a wide audience. In fact, advertising has become a major attraction in itself, with the media dissecting the execution and cultural significance of each ad, creating winners and losers just like on the gridiron. That’s one reason why advertisers put forward their best creative on game day. And it’s also why they pony up $4.5 million dollar for every 30 seconds of air time in 2015.

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