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Penn State Students Analyze Impact of Super Bowl TV Commercials

by on February 02, 2014 8:45 AM

For some, the must-see moments from Super Bowl Sunday don't happen on the field, in the locker room, or on the podium for the post-game celebration. They happen when the game action stops, and 30-second ad spots take over the screen.

Super Bowl advertisements have become a lucrative business in the advertising world. Fox, which owns the broadcasting rights to this year's big game, is charging more than $4 million for a thirty-second spot, an increase of $1.2 million since 2009. Since 2000, prices have jumped by an average of $120,000 per year.

According to Emily Burke, president of Penn State's student-run Advertising Club, students are learning that advertisers need to be creative with ad promotion in order to make their company stand out.

In order to fully digest the elements of Sunday's best and worst ads, the club will be holding it's annual "Super Bowl Party" on Monday. Students snack on wings, pizza, and chips and dip, but instead of talking about the big play, they analyze the 30-second commercials. Cynthia Zordich, wife of former Penn State and NFL player Michael Zordich and freelance sideline photographer, will be giving a presentation focused on how important it is to make your passion your profession.

"Advertising for the Super Bowl is no longer a day-long event, but rather a whole month long challenge," says Burke, who majors in advertising and public relations at Penn State. "Think social media. Digital Strategy. The goal is brand exposure, and now a 30 second commercial spot is becoming less important in the grand scheme."

Ads debuting online, not on Super Bowl Sunday

For a sign of the rapidly changing advertising landscape, look no further than the web. Many companies have pre-released ads online, giving viewers a chance to screen commercials in anticipation for the Super Bowl. As of Thursday, 22 of the 50 commercials have been aired online in full. Budweiser's "Puppy Love" ad, published on YouTube on Wednesday, has already generated more than 21 million views.

Burke says that while releasing ads early may be "ruining the surprise," the overall goal for marketers is getting views.

"Releasing ad's and teasers allows for more attention in the day's leading up to the big day, whether that is through YouTube comments, tweets about the commercial, word of mouth, and anything else you can think of," says Burke.

"Research shows that people are already over the Super Bowl ad's two days after the big day," Burke added. "So a pre-release is huge, and can get only get your brand that many more views."

The DNA of a popular ad

USA Today's Ad Meter is often used as the most comprehensive measure of an ad's performance on Super Bowl Sunday. Last year, more than 15,000 people voted to decide the best and worst commercials, honoring Budweiser's Clydesdale ad as the best of 2013.

"This one pulled at your heart strings, and they did a really good job executing that," Burke said of last year's Clydesdale ad, which documented the bond between a trainer and his horse. "I'm pretty sure I even saw a few tears from some of my guy friends. If you're going for that type of advertising, go big or go home."

Chellsy Costello, publicity chair for the Advertising Club, says ads should be memorable in order to have the biggest impact on viewers.

"What makes some ads more popular than others is their ability to hit home and really connect with the viewer," says Costello, who studies advertising and public relations at Penn State. "Out of the many ads that will run during the game Sunday, normally only a few stick out in the minds of the viewers, so that would definitely be a goal for these companies."

According to Burke, research has shown that the most successful commercials are filled with humor. However, last year's Clydesdale ad and this year's "Puppy Love" ad, both by Budweiser, show a trend toward emotional, heart-warming stories.

Creative campaigns capitalize on Super Bowl hype

Newcastle Brown Ale, a brand of beer owned by Heineken, launched a campaign called "If We Made It," chronicling the company's quest to make a stand-out Super Bowl Ad. The funny thing is, Newcastle has not purchased air time on Super Bowl Sunday. Instead, the beer company delivered a tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign, complete with faux focus groups and endorsements from celebrities like actress Anna Kendrick and former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

To date, Newcastle's online ads have attracted more than 4 million views, proving that the just the aura surrounding Super Bowl Sunday is enough to build consumer excitement.

Doritos, makers of the popular tortilla chip, is hosting a "Crash the Super Bowl" competition on it's website, allowing consumers to submit their own commercial. The video with the highest number of votes will be aired on Super Bowl Sunday, along with another video chosen by the Doritos brand team.

I personally think Doritos is doing it right," says Burke. "Although you can see all five full spots online, it builds the anticipation to find out which one will win."

Burke also says that since the competition takes place on the company's website, it generates valuable web traffic. In addition, a high number of video views on YouTube allows for increased brand exposure - all at little to no cost to Doritos.

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C.J. Doon is a frequent contributor to Onward State and is a former intern. A Long Island native, Doon is studying print journalism at Penn State.
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