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Tippie MBA Students Rate Super Bowl Ads

Millions of people watched the Super Bowl Feb. 6 to see the New England Patriots capture another victory. But a group of University of Iowa MBA students were watching to see if the millions of dollars paid for commercials aired during the game were well spent.

About 20 marketing students in the Tippie School of Management's MBA program rated the ads as part of a survey organized by Baba Shiv, an associate professor of Marketing at the UI, and the UI Graduate Marketing Association.

The students gathered at the home of Melanie Burns in Iowa City to watch the Super Bowl to rate the ads, saying which rank as the best and worst ads from both entertainment and business standpoints.

The big winners in the survey were Anheuser-Busch and FedEx, while ads from MBNA Corp. and flooring company Cosentino were rated the worst.

Shiv said the Anheuser-Busch ad paying tribute to U.S. troops stood out from the others. "The general rule of thumb is that the best ads in Super Bowls are humorous ones. As far as I can remember, I simply cannot recall a warm and fuzzy commercial such as the Anheuser-Busch tribute commercial standing out as the number one. It is so clear that all of us are so strongly behind our troops--Anheuser-Busch did a great job in striking this chord."

MBA student Chris Fultz voted the touching Anheuser-Busch troop tribute ad as his top pick. "People in the room got chills and they were glued to the TV to see which company was running the ad. It evoked a very emotional response," he said.

The students gave thumbs down to an ad for MBNA credit from both the entertainment and business standpoints. MBA student Mark Ahern said none of his fellow students could remember the message of the ad, which featured singer Gladys Knight on a rugby field.

Shiv commented that there was little humor across the various commercials compared to previous years, and even those ads that attempted humor as a creative style, kept it very low-key. "There was none of the risqué, tawdry humor that we saw last year and the year before that," he said.

"The creativity was dulled as result of the Janet Jackson 'wardrobe malfunction' incident during last year's Super Bowl," added MBA student Stephen Clark. "But a few ads, like the FedEx spot with Burt Reynolds were good. It really was humorous, and broke down the steps of making a commercial while poking fun at the wide attraction of Super Bowl commercials."

Shiv, who has been doing the Super Bowl ad rankings since 1998, uses a formula to calculate the effectiveness of each 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.

Shiv will use the survey this week as a teaching tool in his graduate Advertising and Promotion Strategy class. The results will also be discussed at a Graduate Marketing Association meeting on Tuesday.

"This survey was 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."

For more information, see the Tippie MBA ad ranking blog at: tippiesuperbowl.blogspot.com.


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