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

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.