The Kansas City Chiefs weren’t the only winners at this year’s Super Bowl, with several advertisers scoring top ratings for their commercials during Sunday night’s game.
Among the best-ranked ads were those from Google Pixel, T-Mobile, Kia and PopCorners, according to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, which each year grades commercials in its Super Bowl Advertising Review.
“Brands played it safe”
The big game also featured a handful of losers that fumbled their chance to win over viewers with their ads, Kellogg said. There was a lot on the line for advertisers, who this year paid $7 million for a 30-second ad during Super Bowl LVII — and who could spend as much as $10 million to $15 million in total after production costs for a spot, noted Derek Rucker, a Kellogg professor and co-lead of the school’s ad review.
A great ad can help catapult a brand’s image and even boost sales, such as the iconic “1984” ad by Apple that ran during Super Bowl XVII in 1984. Likewise, a terrible ad can damage a brand, such as the infamous Just for Feet commercial in 1999 that was decried as racist.
This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads didn’t include any huge hits, or misses, and was generally light and upbeat, Rucker said.
“What I expected going into it was that it would be a relatively safe year: mostly positive upbeat tones, and that is largely what we saw,” Rucker said. “Brands played it safe.”
The Kellogg ratings, which range from A to F, are based on an academic framework that measures ads based on marketing qualities such as distinction and positioning, with a panel of business students applying the metrics to the ads. This year’s crop of ads doesn’t include any that received an “F” rating from the panel.
Winners: T-Mobile, Kia, Google ads
Many of the ads played on nostalgia, tapping cultural references from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. One of this year’s winning ads was a T-Mobile spot featuring John Travolta, who starred in the movie “Grease” more than 40 years ago, crooning the musical’s hit, “Summer Nights,” with new lyrics emphasizing the brand’s capabilities.
Another winner: Google Pixel 7, which showed the phone’s ability to enhance photographs by erasing unwanted elements and improving focus, after a picture has been taken. That ad scored well because it clearly depicted what the technology is capable of doing for consumers, Rucker noted.
Another top ad: a Kia commercial depicting a father taking his Kia Telluride on a rugged drive as he backtracks home to retrieve his baby’s binky, which was left behind accidentally.
“It’s a fun ad, it’s engaging. They are showing you what the brand is capable of,” Rucker said. “Some people might think Kia isn’t a very rugged car, but it’s showing it can go off-road.”
Some of the Kellogg School’s winners also received top ratings from the USA Today ad meter, which ranked the T-Mobile commercial with John Travolta No. 7. USA Today’s top-rated ad was from The Farmer’s Dog, a company that makes dog food, which the newspaper noted was “the first ‘sentimental’ ad since 2015 to land at No. 1.”
Losers: M&Ms, Rémy Martin
Among this year’s crop of poorly rated ads were spots for M&Ms, which has been embroiled in some controversy this year over its “spokescandies,” and Rémy Martin cognac.
The M&M spot, which comes after the brand said it would put its spokescandies on pause indefinitely, featured comedian Maya Rudolph in an ad for “ma&ya’s candy coated clam bites.” But a separate ad, aired at the end of the game, depicts the spokescandies saying they’re back.
“Basically there is a whole backstory of that where they said we are going to remove the characters, replace it with Maya Rudolph,” Rucker said. “You misrepresented your brand’s intention. Now it’s like, ‘Just kidding.'”
The Rémy Martin ad featured Serena Williams talking about what it takes to win, but without clearly connecting it to the cognac brand until the very end.
“You have Serena but that ad could have been about anything,” Rucker said. “Rémy Martin is almost an afterthought.”
Here are the ads by grade, according to the Kellogg School.
Google Pixel 7
The Farmer’s Dog
Pepsi Zero Sugar
Avocados From Mexico
Bass Pro Shops
Advocate Health Care
He Gets Us