Budweiser and GoDaddy, two Super Bowl stalwarts, were also surprises…in different ways. Budweiser, which has produced some of those memorable spots between regal Clydesdales and snarky frogs, ran rather uninspired spots in 2017. At the same time, GoDaddy has continued to struggle with shedding its busty models in favor of more traditional spots. “They are trying to figure how to have a new message that moved away from the risqué ad,” Rucker explains. “I applaud them for trying to be broader and get rid of that old image, but they haven’t found a really good way to do that yet.”
AN EXPENSIVE VENUE TO MAKE A MISTAKE
Beyond the grading and debating, Kellogg’s Super Bowl Ad Review serves another purpose: simulating the experience of a brand manager. For Rucker, this is a chance for students to work on the big stage…without suffering the consequences. In using the ADPLAN framework, he hopes to move students from gut feelings to looking at strategic execution. Even more, he hopes the exercise prepares them to be confident and cognizant enough to stand their ground in discussions with agencies.
“More often than not, they won’t see an ad,” Rucker shares. “They’ll see a story board. I’ve seen circumstances where people know they don’t like something, but they don’t know how to communicate it. Worst case outcome, they leave it on the table and an off strategy ad gets produced. What the framework does is it gives them the language that they can say, ‘here’s where I’m struggling with the idea being proposed.’ That allows them to identify the areas of concern and talk through them with the agency. It goes from not knowing what or how to say it to actually having a clear way to organize one’s thoughts.”
These tough conversations are a matter of “when,” not “if” for brand managers, adds de la Torre. “I think the event did a really good job of reminding us that positioning is something that you should always take into account,” he points out. “An agency might want to put together an ad that’s incredibly creative and might win them awards, but it needs to convey who it is for, what this product is; why it is better than the competition; and why you should believe their claim. A lot of ads last night didn’t do that. Unfortunately, it is a very expensive venue not to do that.”
While the ADPLAN framework measures ad execution as a standalone, Rucker shares that ads are often centerpieces of far larger ad campaigns. In fact, visual ad campaigns are integrated with intricately woven social media campaigns that involve several steps and layers. To build buzz, for example, brands like Snickers will run a buildup. Others will pre-release their spot before the game to capitalize on building interest. Some view the Super Bowl as a platform to launch a campaign for the coming months. Of course, most brands are leveraging social media to spark conversations and even head off complaints. “When you’re buying a Super Bowl ad, there are lots of moving parts, from pre-game to during the game social media activities to after game campaign building. That’s why it’s not just $5 million dollars anymore. It can be a $10 million or $20 million dollar investment.”
RUCKER WOULD INVEST IN A SUPER BOWL AD…IF THE CONDITIONS WERE RIGHT
Is it still worth it? Rucker thinks so…in the right circumstances. One of those contexts would be the right creative. “I would have to feel that I have a Super Bowl-worthy spot. If my creative came and I said this is OK, I don’t want it in the Super Bowl. The problem is, you have fierce competition. The average consumer is not going to remember all of these ads. They will only remember a small handful. I want to be in the handful of remembered ads.”
Strategy would also be paramount to Rucker. “I would want to have a reason that would make it useful to spend money to speak to 100 million. I’m thinking new products that I want consumers to be aware of; new message positioning; something really powerful that could persuade them.
Rucker considers ads like Febreze and Mr. Clear to be ones that make sense to run in the Super Bowl. Make no mistake: They aren’t perfect and there is always room for improvement in Rucker’s eyes. For him, the real benefit of the ADPLAN framework is helping students pinpoint exactly where that might be.
“I don’t believe there is such a thing as the perfect ad,” Rucker concludes. “Any ad can be improved with enough time and money. Our goal is to avoid catastrophic failure and feel good about the ad strategically before you release it. That’s what the framework allows.”