If you’re familiar with the U.S., you know this country loves its football. And if you know that, chances are you know that ‘football season’ culminates in the Super Bowl. Of the 330 million people calling the U.S. home, 110 million watch the Super Bowl annually; that’s about one third of the U.S. population. The Super Bowl’s popularity even coincides with lowered crime rates during game time because, as people turn their attention to the game, fewer engage in crimes.
“It’s the only TV program in the world that 40 percent of all people watch at the same time. It’s the most important media event,” said Yongick Jeong, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies at the Manship School.
The Super Bowl’s annual buzz creates a major opportunity for advertisers to get their products noticed with the characteristically clever or heartwarming ads that form a favorite fan part of every game. But, as any Super Bowl watcher knows, not all ads are created equal. Should we chalk this inequality up to variations in the advertisers and their creative teams, or could other factors be at play?
According to Jeong and Manship graduate students Gawon Kim and Ian Skupski in their prize-winning paper, “Another Super Bowl Study: An Exploratory Research on the Impacts of Ad Effectiveness Factors on Consumer Engagement on Social Media,” factors like ad clutter (the number of ads airing during a break) and when the ad plays compared with the rest of the ads affect if and how the audience interacts with the brand on social media. This interaction, which includes things like audience tweeting and use of hashtags the brands used in their ads, gives advertisers a window into what air times during the Super Bowl are most effective.
What Kim, Skupski and Jeong found challenges the assumptions of prior research on Super Bowl ad placement and effectiveness. While previous research indicated that ad space at the beginning of the game tends to be best at getting consumer attention and social media engagement, the Manship School team found something different.
“Contrary to previous findings that usually primary placement is the most effective, we found ads aired in the break between the 3rd and 4th quarter to be the most effective,” Kim said.
Even more surprising, Kim, Skupski and Jeong’s research found that ads aired during more “cluttered” times later in the game actually performed better than ads aired early on, during less cluttered times. This also contradicted their expectations and prior research, which suggests more clutter dilutes the effect of individual ads.
“Ad clutter is where things get interesting,” Kim said, “the results came back in the opposite direction we expected: if there was more clutter, people talked about it more on social media.”
Kim said the team thinks these results make sense in the unique context of the Super Bowl program.
“During the first through third quarters of the Super Bowl, people socialize and mingle. They might not be paying as much attention to the game or the ads. But as it gets closer to the climax, people focus more on the game and the ads,” Kim said.
In this research, which took top honors in the advertising division of this year’s AEJMC research awards, Kim, Skupski and Jeong limited their measures of engagement to Facebook and Twitter intentionally, Skupski said, because these platforms offer engagement opportunities that differ from each other in their direction and audience.
“Facebook is good for two-way interaction, me to you and you to me. It’s based on personal relationship building,” he said, “while Twitter is more of a microblogging site based on transmission and pursuit of information, so me to everyone.”
Besides the ever-popular Super Bowl topic and their illuminating findings, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) chose to honor their research at their annual conference with the top advertising division award because of how they did it, Jeong said.
“The primary reason AEJMC selected our paper was because of the innovative way we used existing data to create new research,” he said.
The Manship School team combined existing data that included USA Today’s Ad Meter, which polls audience responses to Super Bowl ads, with their own analysis in this innovative project. This makes their results even more helpful for advertisers looking to maximize their ads’ power.
“Because we used a set of real-world data from the Super Bowl, our results are more generalizable than typical lab experiments,” Kim said.
Pizza & Papers gives Manship School faculty and graduate students a weekly chance to share their research with the rest of the Manship School community. Come for the pizza, stay to see the innovative ways your peers and professors are making waves in mass communication.
Article by Graduate Student Mary Chiappetta