Super Bowl commercial rankings favor the cute

Volkswagen commercial

Alison O'Leary Murray
February 14, 2011

Plenty of students across Boston watched this year’s NFL Super Bowl game, but the 70 Emerson students taught by part-time Marketing Communication faculty member Derek Beckwith were required to watch—well, at least the commercials.

The result of their homework ended up in an article in The Drum, a UK-based magazine about creative marketing and media.

“It’s really the Super Bowl of advertising, too,” Beckwith said of the much-anticipated ads that can cost millions to make and millions more to broadcast during the game.

Students, who were able to watch the ads online rather than sit through the whole game, evaluated each spot, identifying the intended audience and the methods used to create appeal. Beckwith was surprised that both of his classes came up with the same top 5 list. The ad that both classes ranked No. 1 was the Volkswagen commercial featuring a pint-sized Darth Vader.

“The Star Wars theme has a particularly nostalgic impact,” said Beckwith. “It was the most cute, and had clear appeal.”

On the contrary, rapper Eminem’s appearance in two ads, in claymation form for Brisk Tea and then in a commercial for Chrysler, did not resonate with the students as much as expected. Beckwith said Eminem lost credibility when he said, “I don’t do commercials” in the Brisk Tea ad. “You would assume the students would be in tune with Eminem,” Beckwith said. But students commented that the Chrysler ad was a turn-off for its length, obviously large production budget, and too-clear attempt to snag a younger audience by employing Eminem.

Marketing Communication major Rose Chirillo ’14 said her analysis of the commercials underscored her assumption that they were mainly directed at men, but she was surprised by what she called “irrelevant humor” employed to get a product’s message across.

“The majority used humor as their method of persuasion, but I noted that they were a lot more ridiculous than in the past, like the Snickers logging commercial,” she said.

The football game was secondary to the commercials for Chirillo and her friends, who switched between it and Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl.

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