Want a winning Super Bowl ad? Try horses, kids...and Betty White - Albuquerque Journal

Want a winning Super Bowl ad? Try horses, kids…and Betty White

When splurging on a Super Bowl commercial, it might not hurt to enlist some horses.

Or kids.

Or Betty White.

The 2010 Snickers “You’re not you when you’re hungry” Super Bowl ad featuring Betty White. (Courtesy: Snickers)
The 2010 Snickers “You’re not you when you’re hungry” Super Bowl ad featuring Betty White. (Courtesy: Snickers)

Those were the stars of the most effective big-game ads of the last 16 years, according to ADBOWL. The website created by Albuquerque marketing firm McKee Wallwork + Co. has tracked real-time public response to those spendy spots since 2001 to see what works and what doesn’t.

Heartwarming or humorous? Good. Solemn or shocking? That might be a waste of $5 million worth of air time.

Tone matters perhaps more than anything else.

“There is a formula for success that we have learned over the years, and it really starts with recognizing the context of the Super Bowl itself; the Super Bowl is a party, so you don’t want to be a downer,” said Jonathan Lewis, McKee Wallwork’s vice president and strategy director.

And you don’t want to go for an easy laugh; sophomoric or crass ads rarely have staying power, he added.

The 2014 Budweiser commercial "Puppy Love," featuring a puppy frolicking with some Clydesdales, was one of the more popular Super Bowl ads in recent memory.
The 2014 Budweiser commercial “Puppy Love,” starring a puppy and some Clydesdales, was one of the more popular Super Bowl ads in recent memory.

ADBOWL monitors each ad’s performance by compiling YouTube views of the uploaded version. Lewis said a horse race usually emerges among three to six ads, and their online views can sometimes top 5 million by the day after the game. Previous ADBOWL winners include 2014’s Budweiser spot featuring the irrepressible friendship between a puppy and a Clydesdale and a 2010 “You’re not you when you’re hungry” Snickers commercial with Betty White playing pickup football with a group of young men.

Lewis said Snickers has generated some of the most advertising industry attention heading into this year’s game by announcing its plans to air the first Super Bowl commercial to be performed live.

Car companies and beer makers dominate ADBOWL’s championship list, something Lewis attributes to their experience. As Super Bowl stalwarts, they likely have honed their strategy.

Budweiser recently landed four spots on “Time” magazine’s ranking of the 25 “most influential” Super Bowl ads of all time, but the publication noted that its top pick overall – Apple’s “1984” ad for the MacIntosh computer – excelled because it was plot-driven.

While consumers are practically conditioned to ignore commercials, Lewis noted that the Super Bowl is the exception. Viewers will eagerly watch a story unfold, and the most effective advertisers tell memorable ones – like Coca-Cola’s legendary spot with 1970s-era NFL player “Mean” Joe Greene.

Consumers might not have to wait until Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons to see the stories. Much like “Black Friday Creep” – which has increasingly moved up the start of holiday shopping – advertisers often seek buzz for their spots by releasing, or at least teasing, their ads well before game day.

“For advertisers especially, it’s about how many eyeballs can you get before the game, during the game and after the game,” Lewis said. “It’s hard to measure the success of the ad by just measuring the views during the game.”

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