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Kellogg MBAs Name Best Super Bowl Ads

Kellogg students watch commercials during the Super Bowl at the Allen Center Atrium in Evanston, Illinois, February 4, 2018.
Photo by Jim Young for Kellogg

Like millions of others, I grew up watching the Super Bowl with family and friends huddled in the living room yelling at the TV.

But this year was a bit different. Last night, I was surrounded by 65 students and faculty at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in front of a massive projector, and the room was completely silent. No one moved during the action, and the room erupted during the breaks. But don’t be fooled: the action was the advertisements, and the break was the game.

Welcome to the 2018 Kellogg Bowl, also known as the Kellogg School’s Super Bowl Ad Review.

Huddled up with the ADPLAN framework

ADPLAN Framework

For the past 14 years, a select group of Kellogg students has spent Super Bowl Sunday analyzing the year’s Super Bowl ads. Leveraging summer internships as marketers for Starbucks, Amazon, P&G, Instagram, PepsiCo, and more, Kellogg students have less than 10 seconds after each ad to submit their grade using the ADPLAN framework.

Unlike other ad rankings that measure popularity, ADPLAN evaluates spots based on their strategic ability to build the business. Developed by Kellogg professors Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker, the ADPLAN framework is founded on six key metrics. Attention, Distinction and Positioning measure whether the spot grabs our attention, stands out and establishes a clear target, category and benefit. Linkage, Amplification and Net Equity evaluate whether viewers will remember the brand, receive it positively, and connect it to the brand’s existing identity.


The two advertisers that stole the show at the 2018 Kellogg Bowl were P&G (Tide) and Amazon (Echo).

“For me, Tide was the MVP of the Super Bowl,” according to Professor Rucker. A clear benefit was established (stains), linkage was clear (Tide, Tide, and more Tide), and it creatively leveraged P&G’s equity by using famous Old Spice and Mr. Clean spots as material. “I’m spending the first five seconds of every ad wondering if it’s a Tide commercial,” added Professor Rucker. “Great for Tide; not so great for other advertisers.”

“I saw the Amazon ad early,” said Professor Calkins, “and thought, ‘That’s the ad to beat.” The spot established clear benefits by portraying multiple usage occasions, wouldn’t let you forget it was for Alexa and Amazon, and was consistent with Amazon’s net equity by using a style similar to previous campaigns: humorous vignettes of customers using the product in their daily lives.