What Were they Thinking? The Five Worst 2016 Super Bowl Ads

Posted by Gary Getto on Feb 16, 2016 12:03:13 PM
In Friday’s post, we looked at the Top Five Super Bowl 2016 ads and why they were truly “Effective” as opposed to just “Likeable.” We also said this year’s crop of ads was disappointing compare to years’ past, with 2/3 below “average” as measured by ABX ad effectiveness research.  We didn’t even mention the ads at the bottom of the rung, which include some real zingers that we'll dissect today.

Before we analyze the Bottom Five, remember the ABX Index is an overall measure of ad effectiveness that has been shown to correlate to brand performance on 14 Key Performance Indicators.  Unlike the popular news polls, scoring does not rely only on "Likeability." As a guideline, an ABX Index of 100 is average for all benchmarked ads; an ABX Index of 109 is the average for TV spots.

So, when we see ads scoring in the low double digits, we are alarmed.  Given that a 30-second spot purchased for Super Bowl sold for about $5 million this year, according to Claire Groden in Fortune, one would think every ad was carefully pre-tested before debuting on the international stage.  Sadly, we doubt any of the Bottom Five ever saw the testing "light of day." You decide.

#57 (out of 61) – QuickBooks – “Death-Wish Coffee” – ABX Index 72

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From a PR standpoint, it was cool that the winner of Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Big Game contest was featured at Super Bowl!  However, the seafaring ad that preaches a "glorious death" is a stretch even for “Death-Wish” Coffee. Ambitious creatively, the spot scores an ABX Index -15% below norm with Clarity of Message at -45% and Reputation at -82%. Clearly confusing.

Quick_Books_Scorecard.png #58 (out of 61) - Pokemon - “I can do that I can do that” – ABX Index 71

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Great concept. The spot shows 20 years of Pokemon being celebrated with people (including the NFL team) taking part.  The message is meant to empower kids that no matter what they see, they can “do that.” Sadly, the ad falters on too many visuals and not enough Message Clarity or brand linkage (Awareness). With a 49% Dislike score (not shown), it’s no surprise that few intended any ActionPokemon_scorecard.png

#59 (out of 61) - So-Fi Social Finance - “Jim is Great Sarah is Not” – ABX Index 70

So_Fi_Finance_shot.png

Someone, please, explain this ad!  On the face of it, the message is insulting, labeling an array of people deemed “not great” or “great” with no explanation. Viewers reacted passionately to it with a huge ABX Dislike Score of 236 (not shown). Not only was the ad unintelligible, it damaged the Reputation of the company at a score of 10 – which is 90% below norm.  Talk about wasted opportunity!So_Fi_scorecard.png

#60 (out of 61) - Live Nation - “The Formation Tour” – ABX Index 63

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So, how do you create an ad with one of the biggest stars of our time, Beyonce, and end up with a Dislike Score of 298?  Reputation for Live Nation tanked with a score of 0 – 100% below Average! The reason? It was impossible to tell what was being advertised.  The moral of this story?  Never assume any celebrity is “that” big to fly solo without good ad creative and copywriting.

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#61 (out of 61) - SquareSpace - “Success E to the S” – ABX Index 39

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We had to check our archives to see if this was the lowest-scoring ad we’d ever seen. It wasn’t; we’ve got one scoring an ABX of 19 among our 100,000 archived and measured ads.  But, that’s not saying much! With an Awareness score of 56 and a Message score of 32, we can be certain very few ‘got it’ or intended to do anything about it. 

Actually, after I’d viewed the ad 4-5 times, and could understand the audio, I did see some clever intent. But as with the Beyonce ad, don’t assume it’s enough to pay a big celebrity or two and then not direct them to communicate in an understandable way with your target.  Otherwise, the wasted product and media dollars are just phenomenal.Squarespace_scorecard.png

We’ve evaluated all 61 Super Bowl ads and would be happy to share the details behind the Creative Effectiveness Scores of any ad with you. Just hit the button below and we'll send them over to you.

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Topics: Super Bowl 2016