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VIDEO: MBA Students To Judge Super Bowl 2020 Commercials

On the biggest night of the year for US commercials, MBA students and professors take a step back to ask: what makes a Super Bowl ad succeed or flop?

Fri Jan 31 2020


At Kellogg School of Management, MBA students are gearing up to watch the big game this Sunday. But it’s not the football they’ll be focusing on—it’s the Super Bowl Ads. 

Every year, about 65 MBA students assess these ads live as part of the Super Bowl Ad Review.

Co-created by Dr Tim Calkins and Dr Derek Rucker, two professors of marketing at Kellogg, the ad review uses a consistent framework called ADPLAN to give each advert a grade from A to F.

“Their goal is to evaluate whether these ads are strategically sound,” Derek explains. The evaluation covers six key criteria, including how attention-grabbing the ad is, how memorable it is, and how unique it is. 

Hear more from Derek and Tim in the video below.

An ad battle ground

In 2020, the battle for Super Bowl ad space is more ferocious than ever. Each 30 second ad slot commands a price tag upwards of $5 million, and Fox, the network airing the game, has expanded ad breaks to help meet demand.

“All of this reflects the importance of the Super Bowl as a marketing platform,” says Tim.

This year, a political battle is expected to play out in the Super Bowl ad breaks. Two presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg, will be running ads.

“It’ll be interesting to see how that battle unfolds on the political front,” Tim notes. 

Ads with a cause

Another trend to look out for this year is ads with a cause, Derek and Tim note. In this year’s Super Bowl ad, cosmetics giant, Olay plan to talk about women in science and technology.

Creating an ad with an underlying social message is a tricky balancing act, however—the link to the brand has to be very clear. 

“A lot of the time you’ll see an ad, and people don’t even know what it’s for,” Derek observes. 

However this years’ crop of Super Bowl ads perform, studies like the ad review make it clear just how much creative energy goes into each 30 second slot.

“Every one of the ads has a story behind it,” Tim concludes.  “As you watch, it’s worth asking what the company is trying to do, and why they spent so much money.”