Kellogg MBAs: The Best & Worst Super Bowl Ads

by on February 8th, 2013

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Every Super Bowl for the past nine years, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School scrambles a bunch of its MBAs to sit down and watch–not the game but rather the high-priced commercials and to grade them.

This year it was 58 MBA students who did the judging and the winner was Tide, a P&G brand that earned top marks for its witty and quite clever “miracle stain” ad. Also scoring grades of A in the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review were M&M’s, Best Buy, Axe, Wonderful Pistachios and Jeep, while BlackBerry and Lincoln ranked at the bottom of the review.

Breaking through the clutter of a massive number of ads and a game

“Tide really broke through the clutter with a very engaging spot,” said Tim Calkins, the marketing professor who leads the event with a panel of students from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. “At Kellogg, our Review evaluates the ads based on strategic execution and the potential to build brands. Tide, M&M’s and Best Buy all did a terrific job connecting engaging spots to product benefits.

This year’s Super Bowl featured several long ads with elaborate stories. The Jeep and Samsung spots did well, earning an A and B grade, respectively, while Dodge finished in the middle of the pack. Another leader was Budweiser’s 60-second Clydesdale promotion, although Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light and Budweiser Black Crown ads did not fare well, pulling the company’s overall ranking down.

Blackberry, Lincoln, Century 21, Calvin Klein and Go Daddy flunk the review

BlackBerry finished at the bottom of the ranking due to weak branding and the lack of a compelling benefit. Other advertisers receiving low scores included Century 21, Calvin Klein, Subway, Lincoln and Go Daddy.

“We’ve come to expect Go Daddy to fare poorly in the annual Review, but were surprised at the Lincoln and BlackBerry ads,” said Derek D. Rucker, an associate professor of marketing who also leads the Review. “Both companies have been struggling as of late and really needed to score a touchdown with their Super Bowl spots. Unfortunately, both fell flat and failed to give consumers a compelling reason to care about their brands.”

Unlike other popularity-based reviews, the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review uses a strategic academic framework known as ADPLAN.  The acronym, developed by Kellogg School faculty, instructs viewers to grade ads based on Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity.

“This was a solid year for Super Bowl advertisers, though we didn’t necessarily see any breakthrough spots that will be memorable for years to come,” said John Felton, one of 58 Kellogg MBA students who participated on the Ad Review panel.

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