Super Bowl Innovation

Academic Focus: University of Pavia
January 31, 2011
Innovation Tools – The Course
February 14, 2011

Super Bowl Innovation

At $3 million dollars for a thirty second spot, Super Bowl advertisers need to create the best, most innovative commercials possible. How? Creating innovative TV commercials is more effective when using patterns embedded in other innovative commercials. Professor Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues discovered that 89% of 200 award winning ads fall into a few simple, well-defined design structures. Their book, "Cracking the Ad Code," defines eight of these structures and provides a step-by-step approach to use them.

At $3 million dollars for a thirty second spot, Super Bowl advertisers need to create the best, most innovative commercials possible.  How?  Creating innovative TV commercials is more effective when using patterns embedded in other innovative commercials.  Professor Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues discovered that 89% of 200 award winning ads fall into a few simple, well-defined design structures.  Their book, “Cracking the Ad Code,” defines eight of these structures and provides a step-by-step approach to use them.

Here are the eight tools:
1. Unification
2. Activation
3. Metaphor
4. Subtraction
5. Extreme Consequence
6. Absurd Alternative
7. Inversion
8. Extreme Effort

Let’s see how well 2011 Super Bowl ads fit these patterns.

The Unification Tool uses components of the medium or within the environment of the advertisement to convey the message.  This Bud Light commercial is the best example from this year’s ads:

The Activation Tool gets the viewer to make a physical or mental interaction with the ad.  Here is an example from Hyundai:

The Metaphor Tool fuses or manipulates a recognizable symbol to convey the message.  Volkswagen’s Beetle commercial does it well:

The Subtraction Tool removes elements that one would consider essential to the message.  It works well because the human mind tends to fill in the missing elements automatically.  Here is a Super Bowl commercial from Acura the demonstrates this tool:

The Extreme Consequence Tool conveys the absurd result of using the product or service.  It works because it is memorable and vivid.  The commercial for www.livingsocial.com is one example.  This Doritos ad does it even better:

The Extreme Effort Tool conveys the attractiveness of the product or service by the extremes one must go through to use it.  The Kia “Epic Ride” is one of the most extravagant commercials using this tool.  As you will see from another Doritos ad, extravagance is not necessary to use the tool well:

The Absurd Alternative Tool shows an exaggerated alternative to using the product or service as way to highlight its main benefit.  Here is an example from Teleflora:

Finally, The Inversion Tool conveys what would happen if you didn’t have the product or service, but in an extreme way.  As with the other tools in the “Extreme” family of tools, it tries to create ads that are  vivid, memorable, and surprising.  Several commercials did this very well.  Here is my favorite: