Since 2005, Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, has assembled a few dozen MBA students and faculty members to watch the game in a room filled with big-screen TVs and grade the ads.
"It's a funny Super Bowl event," Calkins says, "because it's noisy during the game and gets real quiet during the commercials." There was plenty of pizza and guacamole, but no beer. "We want everybody to be fully attentive in the fourth quarter," he said.
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The students evaluated the ads based on a set of strategic criteria, dubbed the ADPLAN Framework. Whereas other polls rate commercials solely on popularity among TV viewers, the Kellogg review measures overall effectiveness relative to the advertiser's marketing and branding goals.
ADPLAN comprises six basic marketing gauges: attention, distinction, positioning, linkage, amplification and net equity.
"We're less about comedy and entertainment value, and more about the overall business impact," Calkins said. An ad can be hilarious, but if no one recalls the product, it's a relative flop.