Why are there so many bad Super Bowl ads?

[An early post this week.]

Last year, I asked why Superbowl advertising is so violent.  This year, I ask  why Superbowl advertising can be so bad.

You know the deal:

1. A Super Bowl ad costs $3.5 million for 30 seconds.

2. More than 100 million people watch the Super Bowl.

3. If an ad is good, you will hear about it.

4. If an ad is bad, you will hear about it.

According to USA Today’s ad meter and other outlets, the big winner this year is Doritos (again).

Doritos – Baby Slingshot

Doritos – Man’s Best Friend


Sure, there are plenty of other good ads, but there are often some notable clunkers. In 2011 it was Groupon’s culturally insensitive ad. This year, one big loser was Cadillac.

Cadillac – “Green Hell”

Not to pick on the auto industry, but Lexus also fails the rating game.

Lexus – Beast

Given the huge stakes, how it possible to fail on such a big stage?

I contend that agencies don’t do the research necessary to test their ideas (and just as importantly, the clients don’t demand the tests). I have previously argued that companies should be doing experiments, but in the case of Super Bowl ads, it is even easier: simply test a few concepts and see how consumers respond. It is not a radical notion, but you would be surprised at how often clients take the agency’s word that the ad will “work.”

I suspect that testing would have revealed to Cadillac that their attempt to be seen in the same standing as BMW comes off as corny (“So if anyone tells you that Cadillac can’t beat the world’s best, just tell them to go to Green Hell and see for themselves”). Testing may have also revealed that the Lexus ad (especially in when compared to other Super Bowl ads) comes off as cliche.

In contrast, Doritos crowdsources ad creation and selection. They gather many ad submissions and has consumers vote on the best. Because they incorporate testing into the process, it is not surprising that Doritos is among the top ads for the past few years.



As seen on The Today Show

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