Dissecting Amazon’s Super Bowl Winner Ad Part I – The Big Picture

Bruno Ribeiro | March 28, 2018
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What does a good ad look like? That’s the 5 million dollar question. And truth be told, the only honest answer one can come up with is: it depends!

We know, not very useful answer, but the fact is that great ads come in all shapes and sizes, with or without celebrities, using humour or fear, with upbeat moods or tear-jerking plotlines. The “it depends” part refers to what’s your product, your target audience, and what your brand stands for. Knowing that is half the way. What’s left is to create an emotionally engaging ad that is able to strike a chord with your target audience and imprint a positive image of your brand and product.

Our job at MindProber is helping brands and agencies to identify that emotional triggers that create engagement and truly memorable ads. Not an easy task. Fortunately, our automated consumer neuroscience platform allows us to test and study thousands of ads in a fast and efficient way, allowing us and our partners to study and learn the key ingredients for outstanding advertising.

So we decided to share some of the knowledge we’ve been gathering starting with Amazon’s Super Bowl LII ad.

On paper it’s an ad that has all the ingredients to be a success: a well-known and liked brand (Amazon), a hype product (voice assistant), a humorous plot (voice assistant loses her voice), with a celebrity-packed ad (Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson, Anthony Hopkins and Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos).

And by all accounts it was a success: it was the top voted ad on USA Today Ad Meter 2018, it was first in Youtube’s AdBlitz, and was hailed as one of the best, if not the best, ad of SBLII by a lot of critics.

But how did Alexa fared on our automated consumer neuroscience study? The answer: great. Searching for Alexa’s replacements is an engaging plot that allows viewers to spend a good time in front of the tv and reinforces Amazon brand. Plus – and that’s a big plus – people thought it was fun. But let’s use the second-by-second capacity of our tool to delve into it.

A Truly Positive Ad

Starting by looking at the declarative response of viewers, we can see that the that the ad gathers a positive feedback throughout its length. In fact, negative feedback occurs only in 3 moments, and only in one of them – from 0:21 to 0:29 – does it surpass the amount of positive feedback given by viewers. All in all, viewers liked Amazon’s ad giving it a collective thumbs up and, more importantly, a high level of response density indicating that the audience was really engaged throughout the ad.

MindProber Amazon Alexa ad likes

Arousing, at the right times

We can see that engagement was high also by looking into the biometric data. The first spike in physiological activity occurs near the beginning of the ad when we’re watching Amazon’s team dealing with the fact that Alexa lost her voice, showing that the plotline grabbed the audience’s attention.

This is followed by a gradual – and expected – decline in arousal level as the viewers get “comfortable” with the ad. It’s important to note that a continuous level of high arousal can be detrimental to the enjoyment of the ad and can hamper viewer’s ability to process it, so brands shouldn’t aim to get viewers in a state of permanent excitement.

Arousal spikes again after point 00:47 gradually rising up. This coincides with the sexy mood Rebel Wilson tries to instil (wrongly) in a party and continues to grow with the “original” interpretation of country music by rapper Cardi B, all the way into Anthony Hopkins unmistakable interpretation of the chilling Hannibal Lecter. The audience clearly enjoyed these moments that built up from the narrative and kept the story going for increasingly outlandish situations.

MindProber Amazon Alexa ad biometric analysis

The plot of biometric data above shows us a textbook example of the peak-end rule applied to advertising. According to this theory, people tend to better remember an experience based on how they felt during the peak moment of arousal and the moment the experience ended. On the case of Alexa’s ad, the peak point is a negative state of arousal but with a positive affective engagement at 00:47, denoting a state of relative calmness, ending on a note of excitement with a largely positive feedback and a state of high arousal.

MindProber Amazon Alexa Ad affective plot

Across the ad, we can see that viewer’s affective space changed between states of calm and excitement throughout the ad, except for the previously mentioned period where negative feedback trumped the overall positivity of the ad.

So, what happened during these 10 brief seconds where the ad just drifted to negative affect? Gordon Ramsay happened. The cameo of the belligerent chef corresponds precisely to that negative slump, that’s also tied to the first – but not the biggest – dip in arousal. Does this mean that it was a casting error?

In our opinion: no! Gordon Ramsay is a well-known and liked tv celebrity that adds likability to the brand, and we have to be aware that our behavioral response is slower than our physiological one. So, that means that part of the negative feedback we get on the Ramsay segment is a spillover from the previous moment where the team in Amazon is discussing their alternatives with the CEO Jeff Bezos. We can clearly see at the end of Ramsay cameo that the feedback ratio starts to change back to positive, a trend that it maintained for the rest of the ad. It’s important to be aware of the way we perceive and react to information in order to ensure that we draw the right conclusions from data.

It’s also important to know that not all audiences are created equal, and there might be differences in the way an ad is perceived and embraced by different segments. In Part II of this analysis, we’ll look into how the ad was experienced by men and women to see if there were different focus points or if the ad created a shared experience to all viewers.

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Bruno Ribeiro
Bruno Ribeiro


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