Year Of The Celebrity Ad?: Super Bowl LI LIVE – Half Time Report

Emotional advertising isn’t all about emotion – while Feeling is the thing advertising does best to build brands, advertising is also a great opportunity to build Fluency. What is Fluency? It’s making your brand easier to recognise, easier to process mentally, and easier to choose quickly. You build Fluency by creating and using what Professor Byron Sharp calls “distinctive assets” – anything that brings your brand quickly to mind. Logos, slogans, songs, shapes, even colors can be distinctive assets.

The Super Bowl is always a carnival of distinctive assets – but there are no hard and fast guidelines on which are successful. Take celebrities, for instance. With ZappiStore Pro as well as testing ads in real time we can tag them to find out which themes are coming through. And this year a lot of ads have used celebrities. Celebs can be great drivers of emotion and also Fluency – that is, if you can consistently use a celebrity as a brand asset so that when people see them in a commercial they instantly think of you.


Using a celebrity can take your ad to heights of Feeling and Fluency. It can also backfire. This year’s Super Bowl has seen examples of both. Intel landed Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady for an ad showing off some snazzy new visual effects tech. With the Pats down 21-3 right now, Brady has bigger things to worry about than how well his ad tested – but sadly it was a 1-Star clunker. Just getting a celebrity doesn’t necessarily make your ad great.


On the other hand, Buick’s ad showing a school football game where wishes come true made great use of its celebrities, using supermodel Miranda Kerr not just for her own sake, but to provide the ad with its witty punchline. It got our highest rating – a 5-Star touchdown triumph!

Whether Buick can turn Kerr (or football player Cam Newton) into distinctive assets for those brands depends on whether and how well the brand uses them in future ads and outside the Super Bowl. But a 5-Star ad is a great potential start. Other celebrity ads which nailed 5-Star status were Honda’s clever “Yearbooks” (an inspirational ad with a great central device) and Tide’s brilliant fourth wall breaking ad with commentator Terry Bradshaw racing to get a stain out of his shirt.


Of course if you can’t hire a distinctive asset, you can always make one. Yellow Tail Wines of Australia got a 4-Star ad which made heavy use of a comical kangaroo mascot. For a small brand, that’s a great result – an instantly memorable asset which won’t demand heavy repeat appearance fees!

Say Hello To System1

As you might have read on advertising news sites, the BrainJuicer Group is launching its own creative agency. System1 – Feel More: Buy More is the first creative agency to guarantee ROI to its clients.

Why are we doing this? How are we doing it? What makes us think we even can? Read on!


The best advertising is brilliantly emotional, creative advertising that makes people feel more. Because if they feel more, they buy more.

That’s the mantra BrainJuicer has lived by since we started testing emotional advertising close to a decade ago. We’ve tested thousands of ads since then – digital, TV, print and poster – and we know that it works. Putting emotion at the centre of copy testing is the tried-and-true way to deliver ROI.

It’s become a bit of a mission, to be honest. We don’t just test ads for our clients, looking for ways to make them more emotional, we spend our own money every year testing hundreds of other ads from round the world, looking for entries in our FeelMore50 list. Why?

Because emotional ads work best, and we think there should be more of them.

And you know what people say about wanting something done. Sometimes, you have to do it yourself!

Hence System1 – Feel More: Buy More. A creative agency dedicated to crafting emotional advertising for its clients. System1 will be a sister company and client of BrainJuicer, putting all its prospective ads up for testing before they get presented to  clients, and continuing to rework the ideas until they hit a minimum level of quality. Every ad System1 makes is an ad it knows will work effectively and efficiency. In other words, guaranteed ROI.

That’s what System1 is. Just as important is what it isn’t. System1 is not a bunch of BrainJuicer researchers thinking they can make great ads. We believe that testing helps ads, but we don’t believe the testers know how to make them. So System1 is a separate organisation, headed by the fantastic Rod Connors, former Unilever and Nike Marketing Director and founder of The BSG agency. It’s supported by an advisory board of top industry figures including Kellogg’s VP Marketing Peter Soer, HHM creative partner Adrian Holmes and head of Herd consultancy Mark Earls. And it will draw on a poll of the freshest and best freelancer talent in the UK and worldwide.

Everyone at BrainJuicer is enormously excited to see System1 launch. And, of course, to check out the highly emotional work it will be producing. Good luck Rod and the team!