5 tips for successful advertising during big events

Lucy Robbins & Kim Malcolm

We recently shared our top five Super Bowl ads, based on an analysis we conducted with the Zappi platform. We talked to 12,000 people covering over 60 ads in total, comparing them to one another and to the other 3,500 ads we have developed using the same methodology.

As part of that analysis, we tagged all the ads with 26 different attributes to help us uncover some of the factors behind this year’s successful advertising spots.

The six categories that emerged as the most significant were:

  • Emotive: Ads that "pull on the heart strings" and evoke emotion from viewers

  • Social awareness: Ads that focused on a particular social issue (sustainability, equality, etc.)

  • References Super Bowl: Ads that referenced the game itself, either by using themes from the Super Bowl or including famous Super Bowl faces

  • Celebrity presence: Ads with at least one recognizable celebrity appearance or voiceover

  • Humor: Ads that struck a humorous tone

  • Informative: Ads that included information aimed at conveying new information to the viewer

These categories aren’t mutually exclusive, an ad could fall into more than one.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into our main takeaways for brands to take into their ad development in the Super Bowl and other big events in the future.

1. Hit those emotional moments

Overall, viewers responded most positively to emotive ads — as those ads came out on top when we looked at overall likeability. This is perhaps not surprising given we know that emotion plays a key role in gaining attention and making memories.

But which emotions mattered most?

We conducted a key driver analysis to uncover which emotions drove overall appeal for this year’s Super Bowl ads.

Feelings of happiness, excitement and love topped the list of emotions that drove the highest overall appeal.

Meanwhile boredom came in as the strongest negative driver of overall appeal, indicating that one of the worst things you can do with your Super Bowl ad is be boring. This also makes sense, as something boring can’t grab attention and enter memory.

But of course, you also want to avoid generating feelings of confusion, disgust or hate, as those feelings can rub off on your brand and create bad brand associations.

💡 For your next campaign, think about how you can foster real emotions — specifically positive ones like happiness, excitement and love. And put your ads in front of consumers to make sure the right emotions are coming through!

2. Referencing the big game is linked to increased relevance

Audiences found ads that referenced the Super Bowl to be the most relevant of the six categories.

That makes sense, since the Super Bowl is the context they watch the ads in! But it’s a useful takeaway for thinking about the Super Bowl and beyond.

💡 When you plan your next campaign, think about where your ads will show up. How can you tap into that moment to maximize relevance and increase your chances of being noticed?

3. There’s no winning formula for being unique

When it comes to uniqueness, no single category dominated — showing us there is no magic formula for producing a unique and distinctive ad.

This is interesting, because while seemingly every ad included at least one recognizable celebrity this year, it’s clear that the presence of a celebrity alone does not produce a fresh Super Bowl ad. Brands need to dig deeper to find that unique idea or execution of it.

💡 For your next campaign, dig deep into your insights to see if you can spot a universal human truth, and think about how you can apply that insight in a new and unique way.

4. Be cautious with informative ads

Across each of the charts we shared above you may notice that informative ads fell below each of the other categories.

While there’s a place for informational ads in your marketing plan, the Super Bowl or other big events may not be the best place for them (especially if they’re boring!)

Specifically, informative ads that produced feelings of confusion, disgust or hate did not perform well.

💡 When you have information to share in your ads, get creative with how you present it to ensure it’s memorable, not boring or confusing. And don’t forget to get consumer feedback at different stages of the development process to make sure you’ve nailed the execution.

5. Consider the social issues

While social awareness didn’t come out on top in any of the graphs above, ads that presented social issues still tended to perform very well across each metric. But proceed with caution with these ads. You have to pick an issue that fits with your brand and doesn’t feel forced or done just for show.

The ads that did it best in year’s Super Bowl were:

Hellmann’s - Mayo Tackles Food Waste

People said this ad was “a funny commercial” and they like how it was related to the Super Bowl. Others said:"The whole ad was entertaining and funny i mean honestly if i was thinking about that ad while looking for mayonnaise i would choose helmans""The personalities in the ad are funny and the concept is hilarious and smart connecting to the super bowl"

Real Tone for the Google Pixel 6

For this ad, one viewer said “all the children’s faces make me smile. I also enjoyed all the bright colors that were in it.”Someone else said they liked that “they showed people of all ages.”

Salesforce - New Frontier

Commenting on Salesforce’s ad, one viewer said they liked “the idea of taking control of what we already have here on earth.”💡 If you want to connect your advertising to a social issue, consider how you do so in an authentic way for your brand. There are a lot of ways brands can go wrong with this type of advertising, so getting these ads in front of consumers for feedback is a smart move to avoid potential missteps.

Final thoughts

We can learn a lot from big advertising events like this when major brands spend a lot of time and effort putting together their best ideas.

But a lot goes into creating successful advertising, and you never know if you have a hit until your audience tells you it’s one.

That’s why it’s so important to develop your creative ideas, storylines, executions or even in-market ads with consumers so you can see what works and what doesn’t — with enough time to optimize your ad and make sure it gets noticed for the right reasons.

Explore Zappi’s advertising solutions to learn more about how we can help you create winning ads.