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Marketing Students Rate Super Bowl Ads

A group of University of Iowa marketing students paid close attention to the commercials aired during Sunday's Super Bowl, rating the ads as part of a survey organized by Baba Shiv, an associate professor of marketing in the Tippie College of Business.

The big winner in the survey was Budweiser, with its ads featuring a trained dog, a donkey who dreams of becoming one of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses, and a flatulent horse who ruins a romantic evening.

About 20 students in the Tippie School of Management's MBA program rated the ads, saying which were the best and worst ads from both an entertainment standpoint and a business standpoint. Shiv will use the survey this week as a teaching tool in his graduate Advertising and Promotion Strategy class.

"The quality of the ads were fine this year, but nothing seemed to stand out, even considering the standards set by Budweiser ads from previous years," Shiv said.

The student panel gathered at the home of Eric Julstrom in Iowa City to watch the game and participate in the survey. When a commercial came on, the students went quiet, then sometimes erupting in laughter after a particularly funny ad. But some commercials fell flat with the MBA crowd.

Shiv said the worst ads from both entertainment and business standpoints were spots for Schick razors and Linux software. "Everyone knows about Schick Quatro by now, so why spend money to advertise them during the Super Bowl?" Shiv said. "The Linux ad was aimed at information technology professionals, a very small market, not the large audience watching the Super Bowl."

Several female students disliked Visa's ad featuring women volleyball players on a snow-covered field. First-year MBA student Melanie Burns said the ad didn't reinforce the Visa brand.

"Good ads catch your attention, make some kind of connection with the brand, and then encourage you to go out and buy the product," she said.

MBA student Kevin Munoz had a similar assessment of the Super Bowl ads. "The advertisers created awareness but not necessarily purchasing intent," he said. "Companies seemed to be shying away from putting as much money on the production aspect, but seem to be putting more money on the creative aspect."

The MBA students ranked Pepsi's ad for Apple Computer's iTunes online music service promotion as best from a business standpoint. The ad featured teens talking about recording industry's efforts to prosecute people for downloading music illegally from the Internet. The commercial promoted winning free legal song downloads through selected Pepsi bottle caps.

Shiv, who has been doing the Super Bowl ad rankings since 1998, uses a formula to calculate the effectiveness of the ad given the potential target market among Super Bowl viewers and the firm's communications objectives divided by the cost of the 30-second spot.

"This survey is done in much the same way the average viewer sees the Super Bowl, from their living room. The ads are part of the spectacle of the game and provide entertainment for the fans," Shiv said. "But with this survey, we took it a step further and asked students to consider if the ad reinforced the company brand. Millions of dollars are spent on advertising during the Super Bowl and we're evaluating if it was well spent."


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