USA Today Ad Meter Super Bowl Results: Story Wins With Puppy Love And Others!

The 2014 Super Bowl is over and even though there wasn’t much plot development in the game, the winning Super Bowl ads knew the power of a good story. As I posted on Saturday “Shakespeare Predicts Super Bowl Commercial Winners” Budweiser’s Puppy Love won USA Today’s Ad Meter voting.

Our two-year analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials found that dramatic form impacts favorability in advertising rating polls – consumer ratings went up as ads had more acts in a the five-act dramatic form expressed in Freytag’s Pyramid and used by William Shakespeare.

Did story win out this year? Let’s take a look at the top spots in the 2014 Ad Meter results and one at the bottom to see if they have five act dramatic form:

1. “Puppy Love” – Budweiser: This has five acts of story from the inciting moment of the puppy pound, and rising action of a new animal friendship to the climax of Clydesdales surrounding the car, falling action and moment of release when the puppy finds a home.

2. “Cowboy Love” – Doritos: The mom and younger brother win out over the bratty kid in this complete story in five acts.

3. “Hero’s Welcome” – Budweiser: The beer brand delivers another heart felt complete story. The plot in this story heightens knowing it features a real soldier returning from war.

4. “Time Machine” – Doritos: This snack brand has been telling good stories for years with their “Crash the Superbowl” contest. Here the complete story shows how a kid tricks an adult out of his Doritos.

5. “Phone Call” – Radio Shack: This is a story of Radio Shack getting a makeover. A simple story, but the real drama (climax) comes as 1980s stars come in and slowly dismantle the store leading to the falling action and moment of release with the two store employees left alone.

That is the top five, but does story appear in the Super Bowl poll losers? At the bottom of the list we have a Bud Light commercial “Cool Twist.” This Super Bowl ad is 30 seconds of spinning bottle with a voice over talking about the bottle. I see no plot or story development in any acts. Budweiser uses the power of story to earn two top 5 spots, why are they so flat with this effort?

This disparity has happened before. In the first year of our Super Bowl analysis, Budweiser had a top 5 hit with “Clydesdale’s Friend” or “Fence” that leveraged the power of story. However, in the 2010 Super Bowl, Budweiser also had a bottom five spot with Select 55 “World’s Lightest Beer” that simply featured a spinning bottle with an announcer talking about the beer – no story.

It looks like story is the ingredient needed to make Super Bowl ads super. SpotBowl.com voting is still open, polls close at 3:00 p.m. today. People think it’s all about sex or humor or animals, but what we’ve found is that the underbelly of a great commercial is whether it tells a story or not.

Shakespeare Predicts Super Bowl Commercial Winners: Research Shows Sex And Humor Aren’t The Key, It’s Story

This year marketers are paying a record $4 million for a :30 second Super Bowl ad to reach a record of over 111.3 million viewers. Yet, for that money it’s not enough, advertisers need their ads to go viral. Knowing what makes a Super Bowl ad buzz worthy is important in this high stakes marketing event. There are a lot of predictions and theories out there, but research my colleague and I conducted found that the underbelly of a great commercial is whether it tells a story or not.

What does William Shakespeare have to do with Super Bowl Commercials? Our two-year analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials found a significant relationship between dramatic form and favorability in consumer Super Bowl ad rating polls such as USA Today’s Ad Meter and Spotbowl.com. The research pulls from Aristotle’s Poetics and “Freytag’s Pyramid” five act plot structure popularized by dramatist such as Shakespeare to reveal the power of story.

Super Bowl Ads, Super Bowl Bowl Commercials, Super Bowl XLVIII, USA Today Ad Meter, Spotbowl.com, Freytag's Pyramid, Shakespeare, Dramatic Form, 5-Acts
A 5-Act Story Following Freytag’s Pyramid is The Secret to Super Bowl Ad Success.

According to Freytag, a drama is divided into five parts called acts, and these acts combine to form a dramatic arc: Inciting Moment, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Moment of Release. We found that consumer ratings were significantly higher for commercials that follow a full five-act dramatic form compared to commercials that did not. Additionally, the more acts commercials had (3 versus 2) the higher the ratings.

Based on this analysis and advancement of narrative theory, my prediction for this year’s Super Bowl ad winner will be Budweiser’s Puppy Love. Viewers favor ads with dramatic plot lines. Plot is what Aristotle emphasized in Poetics as early as 335 BC.

The power of story has already drawn 30 million views on YouTube and significant press coverage for “Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial — ‘Puppy Love'” two days before the actual game and official airing of the spot.

“What Makes A Super Bowl Ad Super for Word-of-Mouth Buzz?: Five-Act Dramatic Form Impacts Super Bowl Ad Ratings” is being published Fall 2014 in the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice. The more complete a story marketers tell in their commercials the higher it performs in the ratings polls, the more people like it, want to view it, and share it.

What are your predictions for Sunday’s Super Bowl ad winners?

Research Says Add New Media, But Don’t Drop The Old: Study Of Over 400 Successful Marketing Campaigns.

Last fall my colleagues and I published research in the International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications. Our study “IMC and The Effies” analyzed integrated marketing communications touchpoints used in 421 Effie Award-winning campaigns from 1998-2010 – campaigns awarded for marketing effectiveness.

In case you are not familiar with them, Effie Award-winners are proven success stories. Each campaign has supported its effectiveness with verifiable data that demonstrates it has met its marketing and advertising objectives. As indicated below, what we saw was an increased use in the number of marketing touchpoints from roughly two (such as TV and print) to six (such as TV, print, radio, PR, Interactive, Consumer Involvement).

The Number of Touchpoints for a Successful Effie Campaign has Increased
The number of consumer touchpoints for a Successful Effie Campaign has Increased

Of those communications touchpoints, public relations, interactive marketing, guerilla marketing and consumer involvement showed noteworthy increases over time. Over the last 13 years, marketing has changed dramatically and the practice of IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) has increased greatly. Successful Effie Award marketing has increasingly used more multimedia communications campaigns and less single-media touchpoint campaigns.

Effie Awards
Traditional media used to rule, but now new media is a key ingredient to marketing success.

What can we learn from this? 

First, marketing campaigns should be built on multimedia touchpoints. I talk a lot about the power of social media, but what you will notice here is that interactive (social media) alone is not the key ingredient to success. Traditional media such as TV is no longer the dominate medium, yet it has not gone away. Integrated multimedia efforts are needed today to break through the media clutter and reach an increasingly fragmented audience. Have you been so caught up in the social media hype that you have forgotten traditional advertising media?

Second, public relations and interactive media play an increasingly important role in effective campaigns and should be considered as a part of an integrated multimedia marketing campaign. It’s hard to ignore digital efforts, but are you leveraging PR to its full extent? Public relations is especially important for Startups. Can you hold an event around your product or campaign? How can you turn your marketing into a news story? I saw Alex Bogusky speak at an AWEEK Creativity conference years ago and he said CP&B always tried to create PR-able Advertising. The result was viral successes such as BK Subservient Chicken to their Mini campaign.

Finally, our study over 400 successful campaigns gave another insight. In addition to public relations and interactive media, marketers should also consider direct email, design, cinema, sponsorships, guerrilla, and consumer involvement media. Any surprises here? You’re probably using email, but what about sponsorships? Sponsoring local activities ties into PR and event tactics. Sponsoring non-profit / charity events that your target cares about taps into the increasing influence of cause marketing. Consumer involvement is word-of-mouth, consumer generated media and viral, which should be the fuel adding to your integrated flame.

The Super Bowl is a prime example of these changes – watch the TV ad hype leading up to the game in the next couple of weeks. Even though the Super Bowl is one of the last remaining mass media outlets, advertisers now depend on pre- and post-game public relations and digital media tactics to generate buzz outside the actual broadcast. Successful marketers who have won Effie Awards are adding more communication touchpoints over the years, but not dropping traditional outlets. So as we continue to hype up new media, don’t forget the old.