Super Bowl ads: How to manage viewers' attention for greater brand awareness

Adam Hencz

February 28, 2022

The Super Bowl LVI saw 45-minutes of splashy TV ads featuring some brands riding the trend of cryptocurrencies and metaverses, or casually celebrating the lazy heroes of everyday life. Others spiced up their spots with celebrity cameos, absurd humor, and sharp industry critique.

Costing an average of around $7 million per 30-second spot this year, the game undoubtedly demanded the highest prices to pay for a single commercial slot. It pushed marketers to get the best return on investment while they competed for the same scarce resource: customer attention.

We used Predict analyses to reveal what draws attention in commercials that shined during this year’s Big Game and to see how some fall prey to common advertising mistakes.

Polestar’s crisp ad design lets branding slip

This year’s selection has swarmed with automobile companies, from General Motors and Nissan to BMW, all aspiring to win the electric-vehicle market. But one of the attempts really stood out with its design and message.

Volvo-owned premium electric car company, Polestar, aired its first-ever Super Bowl ad during this year’s game and was named one of its top performers. As a young brand in the highly competitive EV market, Polestar had to increase brand and product awareness to triumph over its competitors. The unconventional TV spot revolves around the company’s mission of “No Compromises”, taking aim at industry rivals like market leader Tesla and global giant Volkswagen, either by showing them as derailed from their promised mission or tackling them for misleading consumers and using their electric branch as a coverup.

The clip was celebrated by marketers for its clear-cut message however, the campaign misses out on connecting it with brand assets.

To learn what specific areas drew viewers' attention, we ran a Predict analysis. The commercial achieved a high overall Clarity score due to its combination of sleek design and simple texts. High Clarity points to the fact that the spot delivered narrow focus areas, that is to say, elements of the video the vast majority of viewers pay attention to. Even though Polestar gives headspace to comprehend the bold statements on general industry hypocrisy, the company did lose potential on its brand logo placement.

The logo appears only for two brief moments during the commercial, breaking the slowly and constantly tilting camera movement. The Predict analysis shows a significant drop in image Clarity both times the clip flashes the brand logo. The jumpcuts lead to profound changes in context that make it harder to comprehend for the viewers what they see. These instant flashes also make it harder to influence brand associations. However, the last two seconds put a strong emphasis on the brand, and the ad prevailed in revealing refined details about its new product and putting it at the center of the underlying narrative.

Cutwater Spirits overcomes Bud Light NEXT on brand awareness

Two debuting (non-)alcoholic beverage brands took a contrasting approach in the fight for attention.

Bud Light NEXT bet on Gen Z’s need for escapism to make young drinkers excited about their brand’s first zero-carb beer.

The clip’s fast-paced scenes shift the viewer’s attention from in-person experiences under the vanilla sky onto an underworld couch, where the ​​brand showcases its recent entry into the NFT space. The overwhelming neon-lit metaverse points to a more exciting and immersive fan experience, but the narrative comes off chaotic, and not even the constant product placement can keep it well together.

The only time attention is notably paid to the brand is when it appears squeezed between tumultuous, large font texts. With such a low Clarity score towards the ending, the ad loses potential in connecting the brand with the offered benefits and experience. The Cognitive Demand score also spikes during the last seconds of the commercial, meaning that it takes more effort for viewers to understand the scenario and process the information they see. Our studies show, that a higher cognitive load leads to a lower tolerance for information and can lead to negative responses.

Even though aimed at older generations, Cutwater Spirits did manage to match interest with brand awareness.

The canned cocktail brand paid tribute to those hacking everyday hurdles in a mostly black and white spot, featuring colorful cocktail cans popping out from the casual scenes. Heavily inspired by Apple's iconic "Here's to the Crazy Ones" ad, the one-minute spot succeeded in captivating the viewer's attention intrinsically, channeling it to the product itself with a simple design choice.

While in both commercials products are frequently presented throughout the entire ad, the Cutwater Spirits clip flashes it with clear imagery, which not only boosts brand awareness but even allows viewers to take a glance at the wide variety of the brand’s product selection.

Uber Eats’ product placement masterclass

Let’s take a look at Uber Eats’ second-ever Big Game commercial, jam-packed with celebrity endorsements including Jennifer Coolidge, Nicholas Braun, Trevor Noah, and Gwyneth Paltrow, trying to eat non-edible items from lipstick, to dish soap, to lightbulbs, and more. Confused, they wonder, “what even is food anymore?” The 30-second spot goes like this:

The commercial puts a strong focus on the brand right from the start. The first two seconds set the scene for the message revolving around a play with the brand name and revealing a new service feature. The brand name and logo are clear from the first instance as they become an integral part of the narrative. We see them more frequently towards the second half of the spot amid fast-cut editing and playing a cathartic excerpt from Capone’s infamous song, “Oh No”. The last two seconds are key, which commit maximum focus to the new product message and the brand.

The commercial was hailed as one of the outstanding campaigns aired during the game and received critical acclaim from Kellogg School’s experts due to its terrific branding and its clear message: you can now order other essentials with Uber Eats beyond food.

The narrative connects wittily with the product and it makes it easy to figure out what the service is about. Even though logo placement becomes slightly redundant towards the end of the ad, the absurd situations and distractors like celebrity endorsements ensure that not too much attention is paid to each product placement, which is key for Uber Eats’ success. Below Predict heatmaps show that product placements gain low levels of attention in all instances, but repeated exposures make the ad more effective for building the brand and conveying associations.

In the meantime, its absurd humor might not have been suitable for everyone, as watching people eating diapers and kitty litter caused quite a stir on social media and evoked repulsion in some of the viewers who recoiled in disgust. What is more, the “do not eat” warnings appearing on the bottom of the clip drew more attention in most cases, than the Uber Eats logo placed in the very same scenes.

Concluding thoughts

Running an automated eye-tracking simulation can be an effective approach to optimize your ads and boost ad performance. To learn more about how Predict can help your business, book a demo today to see how it works!

Super Bowl ads: How to manage viewers' attention for greater brand awareness

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