Celebrity Bowl: More Marketers Than Ever Turn To Celebrity For Super Bowl Ads, But That’s Not The Whole Story.

Last year (2015) was the year of serious ads that some dubbed “Dadvertising” for the number of spots honoring dads. As I have scanned the latest news in the past week about the Super Bowl of Advertising and read and watched the spots that are out from marketers across a wide variety of industries I have noticed a bigger trend this year. It looks to be the year of celebrity appearances in Super Bowl ads. It’s the “Celebrity Bowl.”

Ad Age reports there were 19 celebrities in Super Bowl spots in 2013, 26 in 2014, 28 in 2015 and 2016 we are already at 33 celebrities with more sure to come as more spots are revealed. Even one of the user-generated spots from Doritos this year has a celebrity thrown in it. And some advertisers are using several celebrities in single spots. The BMW Mini Super Bow ad above features six celebrities including Serena Williams, Harvey Keitel, T-Pain, Tony Hawk, and Randy Johnson.

Why are so many Super Bowl advertisers turning to celebrities? Is this a winning tactic? Celebrities can attract an initial level of attention and may bring their own social media followers with them. Even with last year’s Super Bowl being the most-watched broadcast in television history (over 114 million viewers), paying $5 million for 30 seconds is only a wise investment if the Super Bowl ad can deliver social media buzz, media coverage and be remembered over time.

The competition to attract these views is getting fierce. YouTube says that last year, people watched 1,600 years of Super Bowl ads on YouTube and nearly 40% of that viewing time happened before the game. Google reports a 5X growth in worldwide search for the Super Bowl on YouTube in the month of January. How can marketers capture some of these views? They need more than a celebrity or two, to stand out in the ad polls and generate lasting buzz. They need to build a story around the celeb.

Super Bowl Ads

Story could especially be needed this year with the high amount of celebrity clutter. Out of the current known advertisers 18/38 are said to be using celebrities. Does using a celebrity stand out if nearly half of the marketers are using them as well?

Last year the top 10 spots in USA Today Ad Meter had no celebrities in them. They were just good stories. Over the years you will notice Super Bowl spots with celebrities in them at the top and the bottom of the polls. The ones that we like such as Coca-Cola’s Mean Joe Green spot told a good story with celeb. Budweiser has made their own celebrities out of the Clydesdales.

My research with Michael Coolsen found that the more complete story a Super Bowl commercial tells (in Five Acts) the higher the commercial performed in Super Bowl Ad Ratings Polls. We found that other factors like sex appeal, humor, emotion, animals or celebrity didn’t matter. They appeared at the top and bottom of the polls with no discernible pattern.

What is the secret ingredient to helping ensure a Super Bowl commercial is liked and talked about? Remember studying five-act Shakespearian Plays in high school? There was a reason Shakespeare was so popular and why he used to tell a story in five acts. It is a powerful formula that has drawn people’s attention for hundreds of years.

Freytag's Pyramid

The ads that tell a more complete story using the dramatic structure of Freytag’s Pyramid are the most likable in Super Bowl ad ratings polls. Shakespeare mastered this five part structure including an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and final outcome. Last year’s “Lost Puppy” had all five acts and not only performed well in the advertising polls like USA Today Ad Meter, but won in social media buzz as well.

According to video analytics firm Unruly, Budweiser had the most-shared ad on Facebook, Twitter and blogs for the 2015 game. Bud also had the most Twitter mentions during the Super Bowl broadcast according to social media data firm Brandwatch.

Super Bowl Ads

The other winners? Research from AdKnowledge shows the brands above that won in terms of YouTube views and sentiment. These brands were also at the top of the ad polls and did not simply feature celebrities – they told good stories.

In this year’s “Celebrity Bowl” Super Bowl Advertisers who want to rise above the clutter, should tap into the celebrity of Shakespeare.

Leave a Reply