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Predicting the Super Bowl ad ratings

Becky Vargo • Feb 5, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Shortly after Super Bowl LII’s halftime, marketing expert Bill McKendry said he’d yet to see any ads that he thought he would remember a few years down the road.

The chief creative officer of Haven, “a creative hub,” in downtown Grand Haven, McKendry was playing host to a group of advertising professionals, and Grand Valley State University professors and students for an event he called Super Ad Haven.

McKendry said the purpose of the Super Bowl gathering was to rate the ads and see how close they could come to the top ads chosen with the USA Today ad meter.

Related Story: USA Today ranks the best Super Bowl commercials

Formerly a partner in Hanon McKendry in Grand Rapids, Haven’s owner said that he wanted to continue the agency’s tradition of a Super Ad Bowl.

Hanon McKendry, who sponsored the event for 15 years, was sold to JDA a couple of years ago, but the Ad Bowl continued.

During the event, referees blow the whistle to command quiet whenever a commercial begins.

Attendees score the ads on the following criteria: How memorable the ad is, whether the ad is compelling and grabs the viewers’ attention and how well it differentiates the product or service being performed.

Signaling a touchdown means the ad met all three criteria. A safety means the ad met at least one, but not all three criteria. A delay of game means the ad met none of the criteria.

As of halftime, there were some touchdown signals and a lot of safeties.

Public Relations Professor Tim Penning said his favorite in the game’s first half was a Toyota-sponsored commercial about the success of a paralympian.

“It has nothing to do with their product,” Penning said. “They’re just getting behind a social cause.”

“Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.

GVSU student Hannah Svendor said she liked the Tide commercials and the collaboration between Mountain Dew and Doritos. 

“I’ve never been to anything where the focus isn’t on the game,” she said of the Sunday night party.

When asked if she was getting credit for the event, she said no.

“These students are trying hard to put themselves out there and try to make a name for themselves,” Svendor said.

GVSU Advertising Professor Frank Blossom agreed, noting that, over the years, several students had obtained interviews and/or jobs through the contacts they made at the event.

McKendry said he started the Ad Bowl years ago to work with his staff.

He wanted to make sure they understood that they had to pay attention to what people like – not just what they liked.

McKendry said the Super Bowl was really the Oscars of Advertising.

“Everybody really pulls all of the stops out of this one,” he said.

The executive said there is basically a formula to reach people in the advertising world. 

“Animals win. Babies win. Male stupidity wins,” McKendry said.

And if you can throw in just a little violence, then you have all the elements.

The Mountain Dew commercial, “Puppy, Monkey, Baby,” did just that in 2016, McKendry said.

“They got everything in one ad. It didn’t make sense, but it got a lot of attention,” he said. “It was made to win the Super Bowl ad meter and it did.”

McKendry said, at the end of the day, a lot of people would have a hard time remembering that it was a Mountain Dew commercial.

Budweiser usually has one of the top commercials, he said.

This year, the ad shows them change – in the middle of the night - from making beer to bottling just water, to help a community in need.

“It’s a beautiful commercial. It’s really well done,” McKendry said.

The group also does a second set of picks on the professionals’ choice. These are the ads, while maybe not the crowd pleaser, they have the right messages (creatively and strategically) for their product, event and audience.

The group’s selections following the game on Sunday were:

Top of USA Today poll prediction:

1.) Tide commercials, notably the one about Mr. Clean

2.) NFL promotion featuring Eli Manning and Beckam doing a scene from the movie “Dirty Dancing.”

3.) Toyota ad featuring Paralympic skiing champion

Professional/student choice

1.) Tide commercials, notably the one about Mr. Clean

2.) Toyota Paralympic skiing champion

3.) Doritos and Mountain Dew rap battle featuring Peter Dinklage and Blaze Doritos and Morgan Freeman and Mountain Dew Ice

McKendry said it is unusual to have the crowd favorites be the same as the professional favorites.

He also noted this was the first time he’s seen different brands play off each other.

Although they are owned by the same company, so it’s like a two for one commercial. 

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