Kellogg School Names Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has announced the winners of its 10th annual Super Bowl Advertising Review. Microsoft earned top marks for its “Empowering” ad, but other 2014 top-ranked advertisers include Cheerios, Heinz, Volkswagen, Butterfinger and Budweiser. Less successful were CarMax, SUBWAY and Audi, which all ranked quite poorly.

“Microsoft not only led the ranking, it also embodied the inspirational tone of many of the ads this year,” says Tim Calkins, Clinical Professor of Marketing at Kellogg. “This sentiment also was reflected in the Cheerios and Heinz ads, both of which elicited the basic good feelings consumers associate with the brands.”

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Audi finished at the bottom of the ranking, mainly because the ad featured a somewhat disturbing dog character that overwhelmed the brand. Other ads that fell flat include CarMax and SUBWAY; the CarMax ad was slightly confusing and the SUBWAY spot didn’t have the creativity required to break through the clutter.

“Many advertisers this year used emotion in the Super Bowl spots,” says Derek D. Rucker, Sandy & Morton Goldman Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies in Marketing at Kellogg, who also leads the Review. “In some cases, however, the creative idea overshadowed the brand.”

Unlike other popularity-based reviews, the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review uses a strategic academic framework known as ADPLAN. The acronym, developed by Kellogg School faculty, instructs viewers to grade ads based on Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity.

“The ad series, such as Wonderful Pistachios and Bud Light, grabbed my attention. I thought it was interesting to see how the ads built off one another to tell a story and reinforce the brand and its message,” adds Christine Fraser, one of the 50 Kellogg MBA students who participated in the Ad Review panel.

A full list of the rankings is available here.

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