The Futility of Ranking Super Bowl Advertisements

I love a good Super Bowl party. Good friends, not-so-healthy food, intense football, and of course the advertisements. Being a media junkie, I can’t help but read what the pundits say about ads after the fact. It’s disappointing that the coverage misses one critical element: how different demographics relate to each commercial.

I was at a party with all late 40s and early 50s adults. All of our kids are teenagers. I spent the evening texting back and forth with a colleague in her mid-30s who was at a party with other thirty somethings. Their kids ranged from babies to early elementary age children. The difference between the commercial likes and dislikes were stark.

For example, Nissan (disclaimer: Nissan is a current client) debuted a commercial featuring Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” and a kid growing up way too fast. That song spoke to my era, and there were sniffles all around the party I attended. The emotions were lost on the 30-ish set at a different party. Likewise, the Nationwide commercial featuring a young child that died in an accident and didn’t get a chance to grow up caused the younger adults to stop cold. And both of these commercials missed the mark with our office’s 20-somethings with no kids. Mind you, I’m talking about a focus group of 50 people, but still notable that the reactions were consistent among the different demographics.

The more targeted you are, the less likely you will get a blanket thumbs up. And that’s not a bad thing.

What does that tell us? Simple, really. The more targeted you are, the less likely you will get a blanket thumbs up. And that’s not a bad thing. You may not win the most liked commercial, but hitting your demographic, which can translate into real sales, is far more important. While advertisers strive for an across-the-board “like” or “dislike” among all Super Bowl viewers – this may not be the best judge of success.

The one exception to all of this: puppies. Across the board, everyone loves puppies.

Sharon Hegarty is managing director and partner at Stratacomm.

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