Holland-area viewers on Superbowl Sunday liked the one about the Federal Express guy.
With football's biggest event also serving as advertising's biggest showcase, a class at Hope College set out to see how marketers scored with the local audience.
"We wanted to find out the effectiveness of this media reaching out to the community and how it's perceived," said freshman Brian Isherwood of the Virgin Islands, one of 33 students in the college's "Introduction to Mass Communication" class taught by Dr. David Schock.
With 30-second Superbowl spots this year running $2.1 million each, the topic interests high-profile experts as well. The students' work follows a similar nationwide effort, for example, by the Intermedia Advertising Group (IAG), which rated the January 26 game's ads according to criteria including brand recall and likeability.
For their research project, the Hope students called 536 randomly chosen area residents on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 28-29. They then interviewed the 296, or 55 percent, who said they had watched the game, determining both why they watched and what they thought about the ads.
The Federal Express "Cast Away" spoof was the most liked among the local audience, earning a 4.28 rating out of a high of five. In the commercial, a dedicated worker returns after having been marooned for years, like the Tom Hanks character in the feature film. The punchline: he delivers a package that he had kept unopened, only to learn that it held seeds and a phone and other gear that would have aided in survival and rescue. The spot, which ran once, was also the third-most recalled (17.1%) of the game's ads.
The 10 different Budweiser segments collectively ranked second (4.23) in popularity and first in recall (56.7%). Reebok with "Terry Tate" was third (4.12) in likeability and fourth in recall (13.4%). Pepsi, with its Osbourne family "Pepsi Twist" and two animal-themed Sierra Mist commercials, was fourth in likeability (3.85) and second in recall (31.9%).
The national findings posted by IAG differ some conceptually, since the group considered the advertisements individually instead of by product or company--a total of 42 segments instead of the Hope survey's 29.
Even so, the local results are in line with IAG's survey for likeability, with the same four ranking in the top four nationally. Nationwide, the Budweiser "zebra referee" was first in likeability, followed by Federal Express, Pepsi Twist and Reebok.
The differences are greater among the top four rankings for brand recall. The Pepsi Twist commercial ranks first nationally, according to IAG, followed by Federal Express, Visa and Hanes. The Budweiser spots individually ranked 9th-15th, 18th, 20th and 21st. Reebok ranked 27th nationally in recall.
Locally, the Gatorade spot ranked lowest on likeability (1.88), and MyFICO.com and TMP Monster tied for lowest recall (one percent). Nationally, IAG found that MyFICO.com was the least-liked ad, with FreeVibe.com lowest for recall.
Regardless of how individual commercials fared, advertisers can take heart in the fact that their segments were a local audience draw of their own accord. While 33.8 percent of those surveyed said they were interested in the game alone, another 33.4 percent said they were drawn by the game and advertisements together. An additional 7.2 percent said they were interested in the advertisements only.
The student survey also chronicled each respondent's gender and age, ranging from 18 to 71-plus. The results were tabulated by Dr. Eileen Robertson-Rehberg, assistant director of the college's Carl Frost Center for Social Science Research.