The Insights Blog

Watch the 2023 Super Bowl ads like a CMO

Watch the 2023 Super Bowl ads like a CMO

Super Bowl

In the run up to last year’s Super Bowl, we wrote about many of the basic approaches that marketers use to evaluate advertising during the biggest advertising event in the world.

With this year’s annual advertising (and football) celebration just days away, we thought it would be fun to share some additional advertising principles that take last year’s advice even further: think of this as a mini grad school level guide to watching Super Bowl advertising. Advertisers and their agencies have gone to extraordinary trouble and huge expense to put on a show, so let’s evaluate their wares.

The stakes are truly extraordinary! Over 150 million people will watch the Super Bowl from all around the world. The US audience alone will approach 100 million viewers. This is a one of a kind event watched by football lovers and halftime devotees. Huge personalities, top tier celebrities and legions of former football stars will be on hand. And, of course, the popularity of and interest in the annual commercial fest rivals (and sometimes exceeds) the interest in the game itself.

The commercials are their own show. Big investments, big celebrities and often big risks abound. All of that can be great fun! And at the same time, the agencies and their clients are on pins and needles hoping that their Super Bowl ad is one of the few that really breaks through, goes viral and is written about, talked about and reshared widely. With such a big stage, how do experienced marketers watch these commercials?

Last year we covered many of the basics. You can read that article here. Recapping that advice briefly:

  1. Walk in their shoes: Marketers often ask themselves: if I was running that business, would I think this was a good investment? The math is absolutely terrifying: considering the media buy, creative development, production fees and talent payments, a 30 second Super Bowl ad can easily cost over $10 million.
  2. What’s the strategy: They try to imagine what the strategy is behind the ad. They often think in terms of “think, feel, do”:
    What do I want the target audience to think when they see our advertising?
    What do I want the target audience to feel when they see our advertising?
    What do I want our target audience to do when they see our advertising?

    With good advertising, this is all pretty obvious. Try it as you watch the Super Bowl ads!

  3. What’s success: Marketers often wonder what the thinking was about how will the advertising is meant to drive the business. How will this advertising work? Marketers want their advertising to deliver a business outcome. Is the ad intended to build brand equity that can enhance more performance centric tactics? Will it differentiate the brand from competition so that the brand is more likely to be the brand of choice?
  4. Why will this advertising work: This is usually a knee jerk, gut reaction. Experienced marketers have those knee jerk reactions based on their beliefs, experiences and philosophies. What makes this advertising special? Is it the uniqueness of the idea, the brilliance of the production or talent, or is it leveraging deep and powerful consumer insights to help connect the brand’s message with its audience?
Some Advanced Approaches to Viewing the Ads

With the advances in technology and advertising analysis over the past twenty years, there is new learning that the most astute marketers are leveraging when they evaluate advertising. Here are a few examples:

  1. Reach: Super Bowl advertising offers unprecedented reach (the number of people that will see an ad). There is a growing belief and significant research suggesting that reach is critical to a brand’s growth. Is broad reach a good strategy for the brand being advertised?
  2. Shareability: Think of this as the reach and frequency extendibility of the Super Bowl ad. Do you expect the ad to be one of the precious few that goes viral and is covered in numerous periodicals, blogs, tweets and social posts? Entertaining ads that are truly enjoyable, funny or heartfelt are often the most liked Super Bowl ads and as a result become the most shared. Great Super Bowl advertising often delivers a multiplier of free impressions well beyond the initial airing.
  3. Music: Research shows that music increases the attention paid to ads as well as recall of brand and message. In fact, the IPA Databank shows that ads prominently using music are significantly more effective than ads that don’t, enhancing effectiveness by as much as 20-30%. (Source: Binet, How Not to Plan)

    So, listen while you watch! How are the commercials using music? Are the commercials that evoke the most powerful emotional responses the ones with the most memorable music?

  4. Well Crafted Executional Details: There is so much that we don’t understand about how advertising sometimes works! There are ads and campaigns without clear benefits or product messages that sometimes connect so strongly with the audience that they drive exceptional business results. In essence, sometimes how things are said is more important than what is said.

    This likely happens because people are complex, and there are many ways to effectively connect with a mind and/or heart. The right talent, brilliant writing, powerful images – these factors can all drive successful advertising. Next week, ask yourself: what ads in this year’s Super Bowl left a lasting impression because of their powerful storytelling details? Great ads are essentially mini movies and work in much the same way.

You’ve watched, the Super Bowl is over, now what?

How did your views compare to the experts?

Visit the fine coverage at AdAge, Adweek, Campaign and The Drum. Take a look at the research developed by System1. Have fun comparing your opinions with experts and consumers.

Have fun watching the Super Bowl – and pretend you’re the CMO

It’s fun to second guess. And harmless. So – enjoy the game, the halftime show and the ads… and evaluate the ads like a CMO might.

Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.