Prediction: Budweiser Clydesdale Commercial Will Drop Out of Top 5 in Super Bowl 50

In 2014 I predicted that Budweiser’s Clydesdale “Puppy Love” would be the winner in ad rating polls like USA Today Ad Meter and SpotBowl.com in this blog post: “Shakespeare Predicts ..” I based this off of my research with Michael Coolsen that analyzed two years of Super Bowl ads. We found that the key to Super Bowl ad popularity is whether it tells a story or not.

Why is being popular or likable important? Even with over 110 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 which can come from ranking high in the Super Bowl Ad ratings polls.

For Super Bowl 50, I have to predict that the 2016 Clydesdale commercial “Not Backing Down” will not win. It may even back down the charts below the top 10. Budweiser has had a good run with Clydesdale Super Bowl ads finishing  in the top 5 of USA Today’s Ad Meter 8 times in the last 10 years. Most of those Clydesdale ads told full stories with the horses playing staring roles. In the two years they dipped below the top 10 (#17 in 2011 and #26 in 2012) the Clydesdales were not main characters and the ads did not tell compelling complete stories.

Watch the last 10 Budweiser Clydesdale Super Ads below and make your own prediction. Why were these ads in the top 5 all year’s except the two? Which ads tell full stories and star the Clydesdales and which do not? What about this year’s ad?

Our research was based on Freytag’s pyramid (see end of post) that divides a story into five parts called acts (like a Shakespearean play). These acts form a dramatic arc or plot: Inciting Moment, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Moment of Release. We found that ratings were higher for commercials that follow a full five-act story compared to those that did not. The more acts commercials had (3 versus 2) the higher the ratings.

UPDATE: “Not Backing Down” Finished 28th in the final USA Today Ad Meter Results. Watch the top finishers including Hyundai, Heinz, Doritos, Honda and Toyota told stories.

2016 Clydesdale “#NotBackingDown” Ad Meter #?

This spot has a lot of “Not”s. “Not Ponies,” “Not A Hobby,” “Not Small,” “Not Sipped,” “Not Soft,” “Not Imported,” “Not A Fruit Cup,” But this is not a story and not a winning super bowl ad. I like the music and look, but the Clydesdales and Plot take a back seat to product shots and bold brand bragging that most people will not like in the ad polls.

2015 Clydesdale “Lost Dog” Ad Meter #1

This spot has it all. It stars the Clydesdales, has a puppy and most importantly tells a full five act story that draws the audience in and was number 1 in USA Today Ad Meter.

2014 Clydesdale “Puppy Love” Ad Meter #1

This spot stars the Clydesdales and tells a full five act story that pulls us in with rising action, climax, falling action and resolve. It was number 1 in USA Today Ad Meter.

2013 Clydesdale “Brotherhood” Ad Meter #1

Again, this spot stars the Clydesdales and tells a full five act story. Its official title was “Brotherhood,” but in the Ad Meter poll it is called “Horse and Trainer Reunited.” It was also number 1 in USA Today Ad Meter that year.

2012 Clydesdale “Return of the King” Ad Meter #26

What happened here? This stop starts out saying “Based on a True Story,” but doesn’t tell a full story in the commercial itself. This spot picks up after the end of prohibition and simply shows a lot of people celebrating. Even though the Clydesdales are delivering the first cases of Budweiser in years, they are really not the main characters. They take a back seat to an extended celebration of the brand and no tension rising to a climax, falling action or resolve that is needed to draw us in and like the spot as compared to others. As a result it dipped down to number 26 in USA Today Ad Meter.

2011 Clydesdale “Old West Elton John Feeling” Ad Meter #17

Why did this ad dip down? This commercial down introduce characters and starts to build some tension as the Old West Outlaw walks into the bar. We get somewhat of a climax when we don’t know if he will shoot the bar tender for running out of Budweiser. But there wasn’t much character development for viewers to get sucked in. And even though the Clydesdales delivered the beer, they were not the star. We see only glimpses of them running to deliver that case of bottles. Instead of the music adding to the build up of the story like other spots, this one ends old west people signing Elton John as a punchline to a joke. This spot was number 17 in USA Today Ad Meter.

2010 Clydesdale “Fences” Ad Meter #4

This spot stars the Clydesdales and tells a full five act story. “Fences don’t come between friends” It was number 4 in USA Today Ad Meter that year.

2009 Clydesdale “Circus” Ad Meter #2

This spot stars the Clydesdales and tells a full five act story again. It was number 2 in the 2009 USA Today Ad Meter poll.

2008 Clydesdale “Team” Ad Meter #1

This may be a Rocky spoof, but it was a full story and stared the Clydesdales and the Budweiser Dalmatian. It was also number 1 in the USA Today Ad Meter poll.

2007 Clydesdale “Street Dog” Ad Meter #2

We can see these earlier Clydesdale commercial made the Budweiser Dalmatian more of the star, but the dog is was another brand spokesperson the audience could be drawn into and their was a full story built around them. “Street Dog” was number 2 in the USA Today Ad Meter poll.

2006 Clydesdale “Young Clydesdale Dreams Big” Ad Meter #2

A classic full five act story build around a young Clydesdale dreaming to pull the Bud cart some day. This Budweiser ad was number 2 in the USA Today Ad Meter poll.

What do you think? Can you see how the 2016 Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl commercial is more like the 2011 and 2012 spots when they dipped down to 17 and 26 rankings versus the 8 other commercials that were all in the top 5? What is your prediction? Perhaps they have another Clydesdale spot that will surprise audiences on Sunday …

“Freytag’s Pyramid” illustrates the five act plot structure popularized by dramatist such as Shakespeare to reveal the power of story. Use this to judge for 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

How to Leverage the Power of Storytelling in Your Social Media Marketing

What keeps you coming back to your favorite books, TV series or movies? A good story. Publishers and producers know this and have become masters at using the power of story to draw big audiences.

Today, businesses are relying less on buying audiences with paid ads in traditional mass media and are turning to marketing on social media. However, to be successful we must approach this new media with a different mindset.

In advertising marketers interrupt the story people want to see with brand promotions that pay for it. Yet, in social media marketers must create the content people want to see. Brands must interest the audience themselves by telling a good brand story. But what makes a good story?

To research the power of story my colleague Michael Coolsen and I analyzed two years of Super Bowl commercials – the one time people choose to watch advertisements for the enjoyment of the ads themselves. We wanted to know which ads were the most liked, the ones that drew interest with buzz and votes to finish in the top of the advertising ratings polls.

We coded the commercials based on Freytag’s Pyramid, a theory, which breaks down story into five parts: introduction (exposition), rising action, climax, falling action and resolve (denouement). Shakespeare used this story formula to draw mass audience for his five act plays.

Keith Quesenberry postcontrolmarketing.com storytelling social media marketing

What we found was the ads that tell a complete story (all five acts) were the most popular and the ads at the bottom of the consumer ratings polls told less of a story (less than five acts). Having all five parts creates a dramatic arc or plot – the formula for being interesting. This is the same story formula you can apply to social media.

Social media depends on producing frequent, consistent, quality content. Brand managers used to producing yearly advertising campaigns with a series of 3 to 6 ads, are often left wondering what to post daily or weekly on their social networks. Establishing a bigger brand story can give you the content base you need. Then each social post or response can be a mini-chapter or character quote, expressing and advancing the overall story. Add intrigue to social media following a five act formula. Click To Tweet

Social Media Marketing In Five Acts:

Act 1: Introduction. Also called the Exposition, this provides the background details, setting, previous events, character, etc. People buy brands for products and service, but also for the back story. Are you sharing your company’s history, people and mission or vision through your social media content?

Act 2: Rising Action. This is a series of related incidents or events that build toward a point of greatest interest – the climax. Be careful of flat posts that simply contain the same information over and over in different ways. Think from a much bigger perspective of creating social media posts that build upon each other towards a big action, reveal or turning point that fans and followers can look forward to, check in on and keeping coming back to see.

Act 3: Climax. This is the turning point, which changes the main character’s fate. There are two ways to think about this act for marketing. First identify the main character of your social media effort. Are your posts focused on telling the brand story or are they focused on telling your customer’s story. In social media you want to present the brand or customer reaching a turning point of finding a solution or overcoming a challenge by drawing upon brand, product or service strengths.

Act 4: Falling Action. During the falling action, the consequences of the turning point are revealed in greater detail. In social media express those results. If an obstacle was overcome, what are the results for the brand or consumer? If an opportunity was seized, detail the many benefits and outcomes that point toward a final victory.

Act 5: Resolution. Here all the events lead to an ending scene of the drama or narrative. Conflicts are resolved for the characters which creates a release of tension and anxiety. Here social media content should show the brand or customer winning. Provide a look at the ultimate goal of the brand and its customers. What is your happily ever after?

Howard Gossage, a famous copywriter from the 1960s said people don’t read advertising, they read what they like. This thought applies more so now in our digital world. In social media give your audience what they like. People like stories. Are you leveraging all five acts of storytelling in your social media content?

This post originally appeared on Social Media Today.