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Super Bowl: The Creative Rules Amazon & PepsiCo Followed

Super Bowl: The Creative Rules Amazon & PepsiCo Followed

Neuro-Insight's UK CEO Heather Andrew analyses Amazon and Doritos' Super Bowl spots, questioning their imprint on viewer's memories.

This year’s Super Bowl saw the price tag of a 30-second ad slot rise to over $5 million, whilst viewership plummeted to the lowest level since 2009. With increasing scrutiny on advertising budgets, how effective were two of year’s most buzzworthy Super Bowl ads – from the brain’s perspective?


Amazon, Alexa Loses Her Voice

From the outset, the advert draws in viewers with an intriguing story arc – who will replace Alexa? Our brains love unravelling a puzzle, and developing a strong narrative is an effective way to engage viewers. Nonetheless, advertisers should be wary of encouraging the brain to remember the narrative at the expense of the brand itself, which could result in viewers remembering the ad clearly but not the brand behind it.

Amazon cleverly avoids this by making Alexa intrinsic to the storyline throughout. This means that our brains store the brand into memory along with the narrative – vitally important as one of the key indicators of an ad's effectiveness is the extent to which the messaging is stored away into long-term memory – also known as “memory encoding." Weaving the brand into the storyline also avoids overt selling, which can be a turn-off for the brain, and so this secures the place of Amazon’s message in viewers’ long-term memory.

The use of celebrities as the new “voices” of Alexa is not only effective at showcasing the product’s capabilities but also in driving a positive emotional response. This doesn’t ensure a strong memory response on its own but, combined with the narrative factors that are driving memory means that not only the brand's messaging, but the positive feeling associated with the advert, are remembered by viewers.


PepsiCo, Doritos vs. Mountain Dew

The advert successfully hooks viewers in from the start, with the dimmed lighting in the opening shot creating a sense of intrigue early on.

The products themselves – Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew Ice – drive the narrative throughout; Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman both set off on their raps after consuming their respective product. In contrast to Amazon’s use of intrinsic branding to drive memory response, PepsiCo uses branding cues, such as hot vs. cold rooms, to get their message across.

The advert also makes good use of music to help the brain follow the visuals and unfold the story. Music in advertising is most effective at driving memory encoding when it clearly drives the action (see more on this here). Moreover, the humorous effect of watching the celebrities rap is also likely to drive an emotional response from viewers – causing a positive association to be encoded alongside the branded cues.

Despite this, this “two-in-one” advert runs the risk of triggering early “conceptual closure” - when the brain identifies the end of a piece of content and switches off to digest it. In particular, the conclusion of the second rap could mean the final screen with the two characters holding the products is missed. Given that the products are communicated throughout, this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, but it does highlight the risk of doubling up on brand messaging.


Click here to see our favourite Super Bowl spots from 2018.

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