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Release: Jan. 27, 2002

UI marketing students rate Super Bowl ads

A group of marketing students at the University of Iowa paid close attention to commercials aired during the Super Bowl, taking part in a survey of the best and worst ads

The big winner in the survey was Anheuser Busch, although no particular ads stood out, according to Baba Shiv, associate professor of marketing in the Tippie College of Business. He organized the survey as a teaching tool for his marketing and advertising classes.

"This was a lackluster year for Superbowl advertising. Maybe the Budweiser ads and Pepsi's ad with the Osbournes stood out, but these were in no way comparable to their ads in previous years," Shiv said.

Shiv organized a panel of 16 former and present students who watched the game and rated the ads, saying which were the best and worst ads from an entertainment standpoint and a business standpoint. They then sent emails to him with their reactions.

The Budweiser ad featuring a zebra viewing an instant replay machine was among the favorites in the survey, along with two other ads featuring characters with large posteriors.

"The 'Butt'weiser ads were liked by six respondents -- all of them males. None of the females mentioned these ads, but they did not say these were the worst," Shiv added.

On the bad ad front, things were much clearer - the Levi's 'Bold' ad for jeans with buffaloes running through the street was unpopular with the students.

From the business standpoint, the ad that received very positive ratings was the Fedex ad, featuring a Fedex delivery man, who was shipwrecked for five years and is now delivering a package. Shiv used a formula to calculate the effectiveness of the ad given the potential target market among Superbowl viewers and the firm's communications objectives divided by the cost ($2.1 million per 30-second spot). Respondents felt that the number of potential members of Fedex's target market was huge among viewers, thereby considerably reducing the cost of the advertisement per consumer.

"It was humorous, so it was successful at grabbing the consumers' attention, and it was very clever and creative work that conveyed quickly and clearly the central message of reliability," Shiv said. "But Cadillac ended up spending a whopping $8 million on a 90-second spot and a 30-second spot for their CTS. Clearly, from the business standpoint, this just does not make sense."

Miklos Kremser, a second-year MBA student specializing in market research, said he thought it was a good year for Super Bowl ads. His favorite was a ad featuring a driverless truck and the line, "Somewhere there's a truck that needs a truck driver and a truck driver who needs a job."

"It was spectacular and to the point: someone out there needs a job," he said.

Kremser's vote for one of the funniest ads went to the Pepsi Twist commercial featuring the Osbournes. While he believed the ad might enhance awareness for Pepsi Twist, it didn't accomplish what the Sierra Mist ads did— give the view an idea how the drink might taste.

Shiv, who has been doing the Super Bowl ad rankings since 1998, will share the results in his classes and with the Graduate Marketing Association at the Tippie College.