Advertising Principles - Evidence-based principles

Should Super Bowl Ads Emphasize their Brands—and follow other evidence-based principles?

To gain attention, advertisers on the Super Bowl ignore many persuasion principles. Here are two examples:

Mystery Ads: Many companies used “mystery ads” in the Super Bowl. That is, they decided to conceal the name of their brand. About 90% of print ads by major brands regard their brand as a way to communicate useful information.

Experimental evidence to date shows that by prominently mentioning the brand name at the beginning of an advertisement, persuasion would increase by 44%. Assuming a $500,000 ad that broke even, the firm would have earned an additional $220,000. (See Principle 5.5.1 in Persuasive Advertising.)

Double Branding: Procter and Gamble ran a Super Bowl ad in 2017 that ignored the principle of “double-branding.” The idea is that companies with well-respected reputations should use the company’s brand name as well as the product’s brand. So P&G could have advertised “Procter & Gamble’s Tide.” Experimental research showed that this would enhance persuasion by 70%. Given that the ad cost about $500,000 and assuming that it did no better than breakeven, they could have earned $350,000. (See Principle 5.5.2 in Persuasive Advertising.)

Why do companies overlook such opportunities? Designing an ad is a complex process. There are 195 evidence-based principles and about 1/3 of these are relevant for a typical TV commercial, so this cannot be solved in one’s head—even if a person was familiar with all of the principles. However, you can hire non-experts at about $10 per hour (for example by using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk), and with the help of a one-hour training self-training course and freeware, they can rate an ad in less than 30 minutes. They would see when principles, such as the two above, were ignored. If you doubt that evidence-based principles are useful for advertising, read Predictive Validity of Evidence-Based Persuasion Principles.

Those creating a 2018 Super bowl ad might want to spend a few hundred dollars to test their commercials to ensure they use evidence-based persuasion principles. They are freely available at

© Copyright J. Scott Armstrong and Kesten C. Green. All rights are reserved.

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