Diversity Is The New Norm In Super Bowl Advertising: Study
This article is by Charles R. Taylor, John A. Murphy Professor of Marketing, Villanova School of Business.
The Super Bowl is a microcosm for observing how marketers are reacting to societal shifts that underscore the need for frequent, realistic, and diverse portrayals of minority groups. With that in mind, I recently asked my students to undertake an assignment in which they assessed diversity in Super Bowl advertising over the past five years.
What they found was that recent Super Bowl ads are showing diversity as never before. However, showing models of diverse races alone should be viewed more as a prerequisite than a recipe for success. Creative themes focusing on diversity resonate with audiences, but advertisers need to combine inclusion with general principles of advertising in order to be effective.
The student analysis, combined with the results of recent research in diversity in marketing, suggests the following key points about Super Bowl advertising:
Advertisers should not expect that merely including actors of diverse races alone will boost the effectiveness of ads.
In looking at whether ads featuring diverse models/actors affects Super Bowl ad reactions in terms of social-media buzz, ad likeability and overall ad effectiveness, the students found little correlation. The analysis found factors other than diversity, such as cuteness, effective use of humor, or focus on a key product attribute, to be correlated with social-media buzz. The inclusion of people of multiple races, on average, only slightly enhanced likeability of an ad and does not have a significant impact on overall ad effectiveness as measured by broader brand-building measures.
Despite the finding that including diverse models alone does not drive successful ads, some ads explicitly celebrating diversity as the central theme of the ad were among the most effective ads over the last five years.
Examples of ads explicitly focusing on diversity as a theme that have been among the very highest performers—ads such as Procter Gamble’s “Like a Girl,” featuring the empowerment of diverse girls, and Jeep’s Oprah Winfrey-narrated ad, depicting a diverse set of veterans returning to their families and community. These ranked among the most impactful ads of the season.
Always “Like a Girl”
Jeep “Whole Again”
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