ShareThis Page
Business Headlines

Super Bowl ads win by playing to viewers' emotions, experts say

| Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, 11:24 p.m.
A screen shot from Anheuser-Busch InBev Bud Light television ad to appear during Super Bowl XLIX features a 'random' guy who accepts a Bud Light and a surprise challenge for the company's 'Up For Whatever' campaign. The challenge is a human game of Pac-Man where the 'random' guy doesn't get eaten by costumed Pac-Man ghosts.
YouTube
A screen shot from Anheuser-Busch InBev Bud Light television ad to appear during Super Bowl XLIX features a 'random' guy who accepts a Bud Light and a surprise challenge for the company's 'Up For Whatever' campaign. The challenge is a human game of Pac-Man where the 'random' guy doesn't get eaten by costumed Pac-Man ghosts.
This screen shot from a 30-second ad 'Real Strength' for Dove Men+Care that will be featured during Super Bowl XLIX is a montage of footage of children yelling 'Dad' of 'Daddy' while interacting with their father. It was crafted to appeal to the mostly male demographic that watched the big game and pull on the heart strings.
YouTube
This screen shot from a 30-second ad 'Real Strength' for Dove Men+Care that will be featured during Super Bowl XLIX is a montage of footage of children yelling 'Dad' of 'Daddy' while interacting with their father. It was crafted to appeal to the mostly male demographic that watched the big game and pull on the heart strings.
This Skittles commercial screen grab features former Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner during a faux Super Bowl tailgate party where he sits in a hot tub filled with the rainbow-colored candy.
YouTube
This Skittles commercial screen grab features former Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner during a faux Super Bowl tailgate party where he sits in a hot tub filled with the rainbow-colored candy.

The celebrity endorsements will be everywhere Sunday.

Socialite Kim Kardashian, actor Pierce Brosnan, comedian Mindy Kaling and even a bunch of Victoria's Secret supermodels will appear in Super Bowl commercials.

But if advertisers want to get the most bang for their buck — a 30-second ad this year costs $4.5 million — they ought to forget the big names and invest in emotional appeals to their customers, according to University of Pittsburgh marketing professor Nicole Verrochi Coleman.

Advertisements that connect emotionally with a viewer are more effective at influencing behavior than using a celebrity, and the companies that understand how to connect with their consumers' feelings are going to be Sunday's big winners, she said.

“There's a whole host of emotions out there. The question is, what emotions do you want to use given that emotions can be more effective?” Coleman said. “Certain specific emotions speak to what elements we are.”

Perhaps the biggest star during the game Sunday will be “Dad.”

A commercial for Dove-branded products features a series of touching moments between child and father — a toddler jumping into his arms in a pool, a dad combing his child's hair, the ceremonial father-daughter dance at a wedding — as part of a “real strength” campaign.

There are no celebrities, but the narrative connects to a different male identity not often featured during sporting events, one in which men are engaged fathers and not superstar athletes or the bumbling buffoons often featured in beer commercials.

“This Dove commercial is a brilliant example,” Coleman said. “We usually think of men, generally, in the more aggressive style. Dove is choosing a very specific male identity, the dad.”

Last year, H.J. Heinz Co. sought an emotional connection with consumers through its “Hum” commercial. The 30-second spot featured scenes of everyday people — a cop in a diner, a family sitting around a campfire, a group of tailgaters — tapping on a bottle of Heinz ketchup and humming the children's tune, “If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.”

The commercial ranked among the more well-received Super Bowl ads last year, coming in at 19th out of 50, according to SpotBowl, a website run by Harrisburg advertising firm Pavone that lets people vote for their favorite Super Bowl ads.

Heinz isn't running an ad during the game this year but considered last year's campaign a success, said Joe Giallanella, brand manager, H.J. Heinz.

“We enjoyed great success in debuting our Heinz Ketchup commercial, ‘Hum,' during last year's Super Bowl,” Giallanella wrote in an email. “We aimed to rekindle the emotional connection our fans have with our iconic product and remind them of the happiness that comes when Heinz is a part of mealtime.”

Sentimentality was at the center of one of last year's highest-ranked commercials on SpotBowl — a Budweiser spot called “puppy love” that featured a friendship between a dog and the famous Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales.

But not every successful ad has to be a tearjerker, Coleman said. It depends on the feelings associated with whatever identity the consumer assumes or, put another way, whatever “hat” we're wearing.

A woman who is both a mom and a professional attorney may associate different feelings with those two roles. The “mom” part of her could be receptive to warmer emotional ads, while the lawyer in her might respond to an aggressive appeal. Advertisers need to understand which identity they want to appeal to.

Not to say that celebrity endorsements are never effective, said Kirk Wakefield, a professor of retail marketing at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. Especially when time is money, celebrities offer a way to establish a quick connection without spending 30 to 60 seconds teasing out a story.

“Celebrities grab attention,” he said. “I think that's why brands use them.”

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or cfleisher@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me