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The Anatomy of a Good Super Bowl Ad

Posted by Jamie Korf on February 5, 2016 at 12:30 PM

It’s no surprise that the Super Bowl is consistently the most-watched television event of the year. Last year,114.4 million viewers tuned in to the Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots game, setting a new viewership record according to Forbes. What is surprising, however, is why viewers are tuning in: Several studies have revealed that the Super Bowl commercials are almost as eagerly hyped as the game itself.

In our digital age, it’s the one time of year where advertisers can say with total confidence that their ad was watched. But it doesn’t come cheap. The stakes are higher than ever with 30-second spots costing upwards of $5 million, an 11% spike from last year. And if that isn’t enough to make your palms sweaty, factor in the average production costs of at least $1 million.  


It’s a high-risk, high-reward investment.

A successful Super Bowl commercial isn’t a roll of the dice. So how do advertisers guarantee that their Super Bowl commercial will be watched? They follow these guidelines:

Captivate the audience - quickly.

It takes viewers five seconds to determine if they want to watch your commercial or break for another beer. Time is of the essence; you must connect with your audience within the first few seconds to ensure your ad will be seen.

Make people laugh (three times, to be exact).

Ads that lay on the jokes are often some of the most popular. And if last year taught us anything, it’s that depressing commercials are a total buzzkill. Football is an American pastime, and America just wants to have fun. But there’s much more to funny commercials  than silly stories and punch lines. AOL suggests that the best ads embrace the rule of three laughs in 30 seconds: the first laugh is to engage viewers, the second laugh is to sustain interest, and the third laugh is to seal the deal. Ha, ha, ha.

Use your creativity.

This one might be obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning. The best Super Bowl commercials use creative, compelling and unexpected aspects to invoke a response among viewers. Remember when Chevy trolled the nation into thinking their cable went out? Some were amused, some bemused, but nonetheless, it triggered a “What just happened?” social media storm. If people are saying, “Did you see that ad last night?” you can count your commercial as a success.

Remember to build brand recall.

Many advertisers focus so much on creating a popular ad that they forget to voice their brand message. Keep in mind that the purpose of an ad is to create brand recall so that consumers remember you when making purchasing decisions. Massive exposure with minimal impact is hardly helpful.

Integrate across channels.

The most successful ad campaigns don’t just start and stop with their Super Bowl commercial. Rather, they integrate throughout all channels. Viewers will be posting about Super Bowl commercials on social media during the game; incorporate your campaign on these sites so your fans have something to share and discuss.

Don’t divide the room.

The Super Bowl may be the zenith of “manvertising,” but some brands seem to forget that 46% of Super Bowl viewers are female, according to Nielsen Data. Don’t alienate them by creating ads solely targeted towards men. And whatever you do, don’t create material that could be offensive to anyone. You could risk your image and reputation going down the drain.

Touch America’s heart.

Super Bowl ads don’t always have to be funny; heart-tugging ads can have just as much of an impact. Remember the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials? We do, too.

Keep these guidelines in mind when you tune in to the big game this weekend. We bet this year’s soon-to-be favorites kept them in mind, too!

Topics: advertising, commercials, Super Bowl, marketing

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