Sexy Super Bowl Ads Don’t Work As Well, Johns Hopkins Study Shows

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Remember this awful ad from last year?
Remember this awful ad from last year?

Judging from what I saw on Sunday, Super Bowl ads fall into a few different categories. There’s the Go Daddy style babe-centric ad, preferably featuring scantily clad women wrestling or fighting; there’s the joke ad, preferably featuring some football in-joke; and there’s the story ad, preferably featuring a puppy and a Clydesdale who are best friends.

Advertisers have long relied on the selling power of sexiness–female sexiness, of course–claiming that it’s the best way to get people’s attention. But according to research by a Johns Hopkins professor, sex appeal isn’t actually what makes people pay attention to an ad.

Keith Quesenberry, who teaches marketing, advertising, and social media classes at Johns Hopkins, analyzed viewers’ ratings of more than 100 Super Bowl ads. The real hook? A story. If a commercial featured a clear exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement, viewers sat up and paid attention.

(Not a good ad)
It’s really that simple. Tell viewers a story, instead of just assuming you can wow them with babes in bikinis. That shouldn’t be shocking, especially since women make up about half of all Super Bowl viewers. Wonder when the ad agencies will catch on?

(A good ad.)

And no, I’m not too ashamed to admit that that Budweiser commercial totally made me tear up.



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1 COMMENT

  1. Nice simple explanation. It is surprising how even a single marketer can get the power of story with two top five hits – Budweiser “Puppy Love” and “Heroes Welcome” – while at the same time producing the last spot in the USA Today Ad Meter poll – Bud Light “Cool Twist.” The latter is basically a spinning bottle and a voice over talking about the bottle.

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