The Big Story About The Big Game for Super Bowl Ads is Brand Storytelling.

For advertisers paying $7 million for a 30-second TV ad in the NFL Championship game, the big story isn’t San Francisco 49ers versus Kanas City Chiefs, Brock Purdy versus Patrick Mahomes, or even Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce (even if they’re in your ad).

Advertisers need to please a lot of eyeballs.

For them, Super Bowl LVIII is about the 2024 Super Bowl of advertising and which brand ads will garner the most votes in the Super Bowl ad polls (winners get lots of press) and the most views on social media before, during, and after Sunday’s game. There’s a lot of pressure on marketing managers, ad agencies, and the creative team.

The NFL reports 200 million people watched last year’s Super Bowl LVII with 120 million in the U.S. – roughly 36% of the country. The most popular TV shows like Yellowstone only reach 11.5 million. How do you write a hit Super Bowl Ad for TV and social media?

How are this year’s brand advertisers trying to please?

AdAge reports that 2024’s Super Bowl ad trends include nostalgic marketing, influencers, creators, TikTok stars, virtual reality, and multiple celebrities in one ad. They also say AI may be in some ads and was used in early-stage brainstorming, but marketers and agencies have only trusted writing the ads to real humans.

As an ad copywriter, I felt pressure with regular TV ads. I never had a national Super Bowl ad, but I did create one that ran locally during the Super Bowl. I also worked on Spot Bowl for years – our ad agency’s national Super Bowl ad ratings poll. I gave each ad a title and description as they ran so we could get them up on the website for voting.

Our research of Super Bowl ads found the best way to please is story.

So, what makes one ad more likable to finish in the top ten of USA Today Ad Meter and Spot Bowl versus the bottom ten? When I became a professor my colleague Michael Coolsen and I asked that very question. Was it humor or emotion? Sex appeal or cute animals? This year will it be nostalgia or using TikTok influencers?

Our two-year analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials published in the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice found the key to popularity was telling a story. It didn’t matter if you had animals or celebrities and used humor or sex appeal, the underlying factor to likability was a plot. Super Bowl Ad Poll ratings were higher for ads that follow a full five-act story arc and the more acts commercials had the higher the ratings.

The key is a five-act dramatic story structure.

Why five-acts? 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.

The classical drama framework we used was conceived by Aristotle, followed by Shakespeare and depicted by German novelist and playwright Gustav Freytag as a pyramid. His theory of drama advanced Aristotle’s to include a more precise five-act structure as seen below.

Five-act stories also draw views and shares in social media.

Ad rating polls of TV ads are one thing, but how does a story perform in social media? We wanted to find out, so we conducted another research study published in the Journal of Interactive Marketing. We analyzed 155 viral advertising YouTube videos from randomly selected brands in different industries over a year.

Videos that told a more developed or complete story had significantly higher shares and views. We coded the videos based on the same five-act dramatic structure in Freytag’s Pyramid: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolve.

Analyze this year’s Super Bowl ads for story with this template.

Try doing a little storytelling analysis for yourself! Use the downloadable template below. It describes what needs to happen in each act on the left. Then on the right fill out your description of what happened as you watch the Super Bowl ads.

Some will have all five-acts. Some will have only three, two, one, or even zero. In our viral ad study, only 25% of our sample were five-act stories. In fact, there were more zero-act ads at 31%. After coding for the number of acts compare your results to see how they fare in the two ad polls (Ad Meter, Spot Bowl) and in YouTube views.

Budweiser’s Clydesdales are back this year. How will they do?

In other Super Bowl LVIII news, Budweiser is bringing back its storied Clydesdale ads that they abandoned in 2015. The Clydesdale ads were storied because they told full five-act stories and finished in the top 5 of USA Today’s Ad Meter 8 times in 10 years.

In 2014, I successfully predicted that Bud’s Clydesdale ad “Puppy Love” would be the winner because it was a full full-five-act story and it did finish first in ad polls.

In 2016, I successfully predicted their first non-Clydesdale ad “Don’t Back Down” would not finish in the top 10 because it did not tell a complete story – it finished 28th. I recently found this article from iSpot.tv and how their data confirms our academic research findings.

If you’re interested in applying story to all forms of marketing communications our book Brand Storytelling explains how to follow this 5-act dramatic form for TV, online video, and all IMC touchpoints such as print ads, banner ads, direct, radio, and PR.

With Social Media Marketing Spending Up, Justifying Social Media Performance Is More Important than Ever. This Social Media Metrics Template Can Help.

According a 2023 CMO Survey average spending on social media marketing for U.S. companies is 16% of marketing budgets and it is expected to rise to nearly 25% in 5 years. For B2B products spending is 23% today. Yet the same survey reveals marketers are only 53% confident in social media contributing to company performance. And a Sprout Social survey finds that social media teams’ second biggest challenge is proving ROI.

You need more than Likes today to justify social media marketing spending.
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

The days of social media being a part of an experimental budget are gone. With that significant spending comes expectations to meet marketing objectives. Social media budgets are not guaranteed and in some years average spending has gone down. How can you reassure management and clients that social media is a good return on investment? A social media evaluation plan.

An evaluation plan measures success based on social media metrics. Metrics are standards of measurement by which efficiency, performance, or progress can be assessed. They’re important to gain approval and funding to implement social media plans and prove ROI to continue them.

Marketers love digital media because so many things can be measured. Yet the sheer amount of data and options of what can be collected from where may be overwhelming.

The key to understanding social media metrics is knowing how to collect data, track metrics, and identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to link social media actions to marketing objectives for measurement and optimization. A KPI is a key indicator that is used as a type of performance measurement. It’s a metric identified from all the other metrics as being important

Measure Metrics that Support Overall Goals and Objectives

The right key metrics will come from your social media goals that support your main marketing and/or communications objectives. For every objective, you need related social media metrics per platform that determine if your social media plan is working and helping. Here are some example metrics per objective category.

  • Awareness: Impressions, Reach
  • Engagement: Likes, Comments, Shares, Clicks
  • Share of Voice: Volume, Sentiment
  • Customer Care: Response Rate, Response Time
  • Return on Investment: Referrals, Conversions

Top social media platforms each offer their own analytics such as Meta (Facebook/Instagram) Insights, LinkedIn, Twitter/X, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok analytics. Metrics for social media platforms can also be accessed through third-party software tools and metrics can be collected in unified dashboards and reports.

Other metrics may be used across social platforms such as engagement rate and cost per engagement. Engagement rate measures the amount of interaction social content earns relative to other audience figures such as reach. Engagement rate can be calculated against reach, posts, or impressions. Cost per engagement is the total amount spent divided by total engagements.

The metrics that are right for your plan depend on your unique objectives and what management or your client considers to be valuable. Once you understand the platform metrics, link the specific metrics for each platform as KPIs to specific marketing and communications objectives.

Create a Social Media Metrics Table for Your Evaluation Plan

A social media metrics template helps organize and show how social media data and plan objectives connect to measure the success of social media efforts. Place marketing and/or communication objectives across the top – one column per objective. In the left column, place each social media platform – one row per platform.

(Click on template image to download a PDF)

Social Media Metrics Template Worksheet

Specify your marketing or communications objectives following SMART guidelines ensuring they’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Examples of situations that would lead to different objectives and metrics are shown below. A single organization or business may have all these objectives and more if they’re quantified and assigned metric KPIs for each social platform.

  • A startup or business with a new product or service may be focused on building awareness among a certain target audience (impressions, reach).
  • A company or organization may have issues with brand reputation and want to increase share of voice to change perception (volume, sentiment).
  • A business needs to drive sales leads or online purchases (referrals, conversion).
  • A brand needs to focus on retention of customers for continued sales or recruiting new customers via word-of-mouth (likes, comments, shares, clicks).

These KPI metrics can be used to measure performance at the beginning of a social media plan, at the end, every quarter, month, weekly, or even daily. Overall strategies and plans should be set and reevaluated yearly, but individual campaigns, promotions, and tactics should be measured and optimized continuously throughout the year.

Managers may also require quarterly, monthly, or weekly reports. Many software tools make it easy to set up dashboards of KPI metrics and schedule analytics reports to be generated and automatically sent to specific team members regularly. You should track the effectiveness of different strategies and tactics in dashboards as well.

What if those metrics are not performing well? You might not be using the best social media platforms for your strategy. Find out with this Social Media Platform Guide.