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Kellogg Marketing Students Award Super Bowl Win to Toyota’s Prius

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You may have heard that the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl on Sunday—and even that the team’s star Peyton Manning became the winningest quarterback in National Football League (NFL) history. But according to marketing students at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, bragging rights go to Toyota for its ad promoting the Prius, which ran during the game.

Super Bowl advertising is big business. According to Ad Week, advertisers paid as much as $5 million per 30-second spot as part of Sunday’s game, which aired on CBS and drew 111.9 million viewers. The Prius commercial, entitled “The Longest Chase,” clocked in at one minute and 40 seconds—which based on the Ad Week figure would add up to more than $16 million in ad spend.

For Toyota, at least, it was money well spent, according to the 69 Kellogg MBA students who scrutinized each ad during the big game as part of the school’s 12th annual Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review. Led by Kellogg Professors Derek D. Rucker and Tim Calkins, the highly anticipated event draws dozens of students each year eager to put what they’re learning as part of their marketing coursework into practice.

The students employ a strategic framework, which goes by the acronym ADPLAN, to evaluate the effectiveness of each Super Bowl commercial according to six criteria: Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity.

“Toyota’s Prius was a clear winner in this year’s Super Bowl because it kept our attention, had strong linkage to the brand and showcased its benefits,” Rucker said in a statement. Starring former characters from the television show The Wire posing as bank robbers escaping police, the ad pokes fun at the stereotype of the Prius as a slow car.

Doritos, with an ad depicting a birth induced by a chip-eating dad, also received high marks from the Kellogg team, as did Budweiser, T-Mobile, Audi and TurboTax.

Maybe Not the Best Spent Marketing Dollars

Super Bowl ad reviewComedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele teamed up to promote website builder and blogging platform SquareSpace, but the Kellogg students deemed that ad a flop, giving it a grade of “F.” It marks the second year in a row that SquareSpace has ranked at the bottom of the ad review.

“This is not a surprise as our panel found it both confusing and lacking a clear point of difference,” Rucker said. Also coming in toward the bottom of the ranking—although slightly above SquareSpace with a “D” grade—were Acura,, Buick, Jublia, LG, Persil, SoFi and SunTrust.

“While many advertisers played it safe, our panel found most of the overall advertising worked well with strong branding and many companies communicated a clear point of difference,” Calkins said in a statement.

MBA student Courtney Firestone was thrilled to take part. “As a student, getting to participate in Kellogg’s Super Bowl Ad Review was a great experience to apply what we’ve learned in class,” she said in a statement.

Check out the full Kellogg Super Bowl Ad Review results.