Super Bowl Ads: Fun or Flat? Research Can Predict the Answer - (Archived)


Super bowl Sunday… many of us at Market Connections cannot wait for the ads. That’s because the ads are creative and funny, and focused on resonating with this large audience.

With Super Bowl ads costing millions of dollars, ensuring the ad hits the mark is important. That’s why we believe ad and message testing should be a key part of the creative process.

We had the opportunity to test a Superbowl ad for a key commercial client, and had a great time being part of the process. While the ad was a little different (and more light-hearted) than the subject matter we usually work with, the methodology was the same when we test ads and messaging for any of our clients, whether they place local print ads or national television ads.

That is because the purpose is the same: to ensure the message you want resonates with your audience. In the case of the Super Bowl ad we tested, the client wanted to ensure the humor would be, well, humorous. What is the process? Our resident qualitative research expert, Dave Glantz, shares:

When in the process should a company start testing an ad?

Dave: It needs to be far enough in advance to allow for proper evaluation and have time to make changes and refine the ad if necessary. How long that is really depends on the ad you’re running, production time, and the media properties. With the understanding that lead times can vary, our clients usually test six to eight weeks before the campaign launch.

What does ad testing usually encompass?

Dave: The best method of testing is through focus groups, where the target audience views and comments on the ad. In the focus group, we pay special attention to the ad’s overall appeal, tone, content, credibility, meaningfulness, relevance, terminology, and visual qualities/design. For video/TV ads, we may also explore other factors such as narration, background music, the actors themselves, and other production values. Ultimately, we want to understand how well the ad resonates with the target audience, and identify any areas that may be off-putting to the audience and how these might be addressed.

What is your advice around testing not just for message, but for humor?

Dave: Depending on what the client is advertising, humor can certainly add to an ad’s appeal. But humor can be difficult—what is funny to one person may be offensive to another.

A focus group setting will reveal instant and spontaneous reactions to the ad. And beyond any possible laughter, the audience’s facial expressions and body language can communicate any additional positive and negative feelings the moderator can then probe on. For these reasons, it is beneficial for all client stakeholders to observe the group’s reactions first-hand.

We recommend at least two focus groups per audience segment to act as a confirmation that the humor will be perceived as humorous (or at least not offensive) to the audience. Moreover, given that humor — or offensiveness — is in the eye of the beholder. Another important and sensitive consideration, particularly for ads intended for a nationwide consumer audience, is to ensure the participant composition in the focus group room broadly reflects the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the audience at large.

Join Our Webinar on Ad and Message Testing

This coming Wednesday, February 8, 2017, Dave is leading the next in our Best Practices webinar series: “Using Research to Successfully Introduce New Products, Services, and Campaigns.” You will learn more about how you can use ad testing to help improve your ROI. Register now for this complimentary webinar.

Just for fun: Get a preview of other 2017 Super bowl ads. Entrepreneur Magazine rounded up the best of them. Which ones are your favorites?

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