Cleveland AMA Super Bowl Commercial Review Q&A

The Super Bowl is expected to be watched by upwards of 110 million people and commercials are expected to fetch a price of $5 million for each 30-second spot. On February 8th, a panel will host a discussion at Cibreo on the commercial spot winners and losers. Panelists include Mark Szczepanik from Adcom, Q104 Morning Host Jeff Kurkjian, and Jennifer Norris, CMO at Firefighters Community Credit Union.


Is this the most important day of the year in advertising? If so, why? What could be contenders (if any) for the most important day?

Jennifer: In terms of sheer audience size – exposure to a message, YES.

Jeff: This is truly the most important day. The sheer number of people watching is one thing however, it is known that people LOVE the commercials and look forward to them unlike most commercial breaks (I can attest, I am in commercial radio).

Mark: Not sure it’s the most important day in advertising. Advertising works year-round. It’s definitely one of the few rare days that people will seek it out and not DVR through the ads.

With each 30-second commercial price expected to be $5 million, is the exposure worth the cost?

Jennifer: For large brands and new products it can be.

Jeff: Yes, without a doubt.

Mark: It depends. What are your objectives? If you’re trying to sell a product that appeals to a very small subset of people – maybe not. But if you’re looking for broad awareness, it could make a lot of sense for your brand.


What is the format for this year’s Cleveland AMA event?          

Jennifer: This lively and interactive dinner will feature brackets of ads pitted against each other until you and the local marketing community determine the best ad of the 2016 game. You’ll get a chance to see the commercials again, listen to our expert panel, make comments, and then vote!


What are you looking forward to seeing?                                

Jennifer: The audience’s reactions to the ads.

Mark: I’m curious to see if Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen can make an election parody work for Bud Light. Bud Light hasn’t done anything truly interesting since it’s Real Men of Genius campaign.

I’m interested in seeing Coca-Cola’s new campaign.

I’m wondering how Skittles brand of weird will play to a broad audience.

I’m hoping people finally understand what a Buick looks like.


What are the qualities of a successful ad?

Jennifer: Something interesting, emotionally triggers a response, informative, creative and memorable.

Jeff: Funny or memorable. Lots of ads try to strike the father/son or father/daughter chord; that’s always good but it really is the hilarious ads that make it.

Mark: Again, it depends. The Super Bowl is viewed differently than other TV programs. Super Sunday is a big social event. There are lots of parties (some with adult beverages). As with any ad, you’ve got to do something to get noticed. And on Super Sunday you’ve got to live up to a ton of hype.

There’s no hard and fast rules in advertising. Sometimes humor works. Sometimes a brand calls for a serious tone.


How would you quantify an ad that was successful?

Jennifer: RESULTS! ROI—increase sales, product recall, activation—it depends on the message.

Jeff: It is all about a memorable aspect tying in the brand with the message. Some commercials are hilarious, but you don’t remember the brand because the connection wasn’t concrete.

Mark: You’d have to ask the marketing director about the specific objectives, i.e., sales, awareness, etc. I’d hope that people would remember the product and feel better about it after seeing the spot—or better yet, buy it.


With so many people watching, is it better to push the envelope or steer more conservative?

Jennifer: I love pushing the envelope! (Not too far, though.)

Jeff: Always push the envelope, without a doubt.

Mark: Depends on the brand. You wouldn’t expect Budweiser’s Clydesdales to deliver bathroom humor. And GoDaddy wouldn’t hire a serious pitchman (though GoDaddy is sitting out this year, mercifully.) It is the most viewed television event of the year—so most brands will push it.


The most famous commercials in past Super Bowls were Apple’s “1984” and Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene” spots. Any others that you felt in the recent past that had cultural or business significance?

Jennifer: The original Go Daddy Commercials (Ladies in tank tops) from a few years ago really took that brand to a whole new level of brand awareness and they were very memorable—although some audience members didn’t agree with the approach.

This wasn’t a super bowl commercial, rather the Sugar Bowl…and it was one of my favorites in terms of creativity for a relatively boring product like insurance: Mayhem!

It was informative, engaging, interesting, and activated! Only downside was because of its popularity, the site kept crashing. 

I am interested (as a marketer) to see what comes of this year’s Avocado commercial!

Jeff: For me, I love creativity. ‘The First Draft Ever’ with Avocados From Mexico is excellent because it has the football tie, ties in animals (everyone loves that), celebrity cameo and it is funny! ‘Clash of Clans’ last year. Who would have thought an app would have such a successful commercial featuring Liam Neeson? Also, Mercedes Benz’ ‘Tortoise and The Hare.’

Mark: Doritos’ ‘Crash the Superbowl’ campaign (which they claim they are shuttering after this year) kind of flipped the Super Bowl on its head. I’m sure everyone’s aware that Doritos has been running user-generated content on the Super Bowl for the last decade. In recent years, they started rewarding commercials that got top rankings on the USA Today Ad Meter (a consumer opinion poll.) It shifted the objective from selling deliciously dusted tortilla chips to creating sheer entertainment. It rewarded the lowest common denominator. Look back at how many of the entries feature dogs, babies or groin injuries. How well commercials position or sell the product seemingly fell by the wayside.

Are there ads that had cultural success that did not translate into sustained or increased sales? If so, can these be said to have been successful?

Jennifer: I don’t have the analytics, but possibly the Microsoft commercials from last year. I feel as though they did highlight the good that Microsoft can do for humanity through their products in a way I would not have thought of without seeing that commercial. Left a “good feeling” about the company even though I’m not a huge Microsoft fan. (persuasion with emotion)

Mark: In 2000, aired a spot featuring its dog hand-puppet mascot. It ranked high on the Ad Meter. The puppet appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, Nightline and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Yet, the site was out of business months later. CNET named as one of the greatest dot-com disasters in history. The puppet is immortalized on Al & Laura Ries’ The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR. Which actually sounds short-sighted when you learn that the spot actually boosted sales —but the company lost money on most of its transactions. So, I’m not sure the advertising is to blame there.


What was a commercial that you felt really missed the mark and could be considered a Super Bowl commercial dud and why? (What could they have done better?)

Jennifer: Nationwide Insurance’s commercials that tried to evoke fear!

Jeff: Coke sometimes works a little too hard in my opinion. This includes the ad where Coke is spilled on a server and everyone around the world has their internet now streaming Coca-Cola messages. Just not very creative, feasible or funny.

Mark: I am a big fan of WeatherTech products. They have helped preserve the resale value of my minivan on countless occasions. I, however, cannot defend their Super Bowl efforts. Last year’s scenes from their American factory showing American workers using American materials to create American floor mats? C’mon, WT! This is the SUPER BOWL. I would’ve been disappointed in the creative if I’d seen it during Law & Order: SVU.

Their CEO claims that they saw an 80 percent increase web traffic to our website and a 57 percent increase in calls.


This has generally been one of the most attended and anticipated Cleveland AMA events of the programming year. What have people taken away from this event in years past that helped their business?

Jennifer: Networking opportunities! Understanding different perspectives from local marketers – agency, media, B2C, B2B!

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