Super Bowl ads most effective as part of integrated communication strategy

Advertising professor provides analysis of current media model influence

​Johnny Sparks, associate professor of advertising, says an integrated strategy will help this year's Super Bowl ads succeed in the modern media environment.

"We're in an owned-earned-paid model," Sparks said. "It is impossible to think about your investment in advertising without considering its potential to facilitate earned media, such as broadcast news coverage, and how you will use your owned media, such as your social media and website, to supplement your efforts."

Sparks said public relations efforts through owned media are increasingly used to gain earned media coverage in advance of the Super Bowl to build an audience for a brand's advertisement.

"The owned and earned media promote the ad — before, during and after its airing," he said. "The Super Bowl audience has long included the ad-focused viewers, but the actual role of the ad airing during the Super Bowl in the modern integrated marketing communication context is continuously evolving. True success depends on generating engagement with the ad through owned media and earned news coverage."

Sparks says for an ad spend to be worthwhile, it must be on strategy.

"Oftentimes, advertisers abandon strategy in an attempt to cut through the clutter," he said. "If you are spending your Super Bowl advertising money to go off strategy — like using sex or humor — then that might be money wasted."

Sparks said the successful Budweiser "Grab Some Buds" strategy, which dates back to 2010, has had some tactical variations.

The "Puppy Love" ad by Budweiser — the 2014 Super Bowl Ad Meter winner — and the "Lost Dog" ad by Budweiser — the 2015 Super Bowl Ad Meter winner — both continue to use appealing imagery with the puppy to communicate "who has your back in bad times and good times," according to Sparks.

"The ad was part of an integrated marketing communications campaign that realizes strategy is important not just in the ad, but in the owned media where you have earned opportunities to drive that coverage," Sparks said.

Johnny V. Sparks

Johnny SparksJohnny V. Sparks is an associate professor of advertising in the journalism department and the director of the Center for Innovation, Collaboration and Engagement. Sparks' research focuses on the influence of strategic communication's content and structure on human emotion and cognition.

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