I like to poke fun at the Kellogg people (Northwestern’s B-school, not the cereal), given that I’m a University of Chicago Booth guy.  In reality, the rivalry is friendly, and so it wasn’t surprising that Kellogg prof Tim Calkins came to Booth to talk about evaluating Super Bowl ads.  What was surprising was that it was a Northwestern guy – and not a Chicago guy – that came up with a quantitative framework to discuss Super Bowl ads.  I thought his framework was worth sharing, and you might have some fun viewing the ads through it.

The framework is called ADPLAN, and here are the six criteria:






Net equity

Here’s what they mean.

Attention – Did the ad do something to attract your attention?  Apple’s “1984” ad is the classic example.  The old Bud Bowl ads also did a good job attracting attention.  Two of  my favorite ads from last year’s game were the Bud Light “Epic” ads.

Distinction – Did the ad stand out?  Was it different?  I will go back to the “Dawn of Discover” ads played 29 years ago (yes, the Super Bowl the Bears won) as being very distinctive.

Positioning – Did the ad clearly state what the product/service does, who it is for, what benefits it provides, and how it is different from or better than the competition?  The old Miller Lite “great taste, less filling” ads were strong in terms of positioning (as well as meeting several other criteria – great ads.).

Linkage – Very critical.  You have to be able to associate the brand with the ad.  Two years ago, Honda ran what I referred to as The Ferris Bueller ad.  I referred to it in that way because I only remembered Matthew Broderick reprising his Ferris Bueller role, and I had to google the ad to remember whose it was.  No linkage.  On the other hand, I knew from the first millisecond that same year the M&M’S ad was for M&M’S.  (And, see, I called it “the M&M’S ad.”).

Amplification – How did you react to the ad?  Was it something you would remember?  If so, favorably or unfavorably? Sadly, thinking back to last year, the only commercial I remember was the Heinz ketchup commercial, and only because they put ketchup on a hot dog (a Chicago no-no.)

Net equity – Brand equity is a phrase us marketers like to bandy about.  Makes us sound smart.  But seriously, no matter how extravagant the ad, it needs to remain consistent with the brand.  The absolute expert at that is Budweiser with the Clydesdale ads.  The ads tell great stories, and just really add to the brand.

So if this is too much for you to get, there is an easier way.  Call it the BBB method, which combines the six attributes into three.

Breakthrough (awareness and distinction) Did the ad wow you?

Benefit (positioning and amplification) Did it resonate positively?

Branding (linkage and net equity) Was it consistent with what you would expect from the brand?

Or you could just basically not overthink it and decide whether or not you liked the ads.

So, enjoy the ads (and the game).  And feel free to let us know which ads resonate with you.