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Let’s Get It On: Lessons From March AdNess

Andrew Eisner April 10, 2017
Let’s Get It On: Lessons From March AdNess
Sixteen ads from NCAA sponsors battled it out for the title of March AdNess champion. After a series of nail-biting matches, it came down to two ads: Reese’s “Spring Song” featuring Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On,” and Capital One’s “Ringtone” ad with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Ringtone put up a good fight in the final round, but fell to Spring Song by five points as Reese’s was crowned March AdNess champion. The ads competed across 4 rounds, with each round scored by a different set of attributes. The attributes were collected about the audio in the spots, and measured by Veritonic’s patent-pending audio analysis technology. Round 1 was scored by the Feelings the ads evoked, Round 2 by the Emotions, Round 3 by the Purchase Intent the spot generated. The final round was scored by the contenders’ overall scores. What can we learn from this and the other epic battles of the inaugural March AdNess?

Nostalgia Is Big...

First, nostalgia played a strong role in the top contenders. In the final matchup, both the Reese’s and Capital One ads used 70’s music hits. These classic and familiar tunes have built in associations with consumers. In fact, it’s safe to say that both songs have their own (substantial!) brand equity, which the advertisers are trying to tap into. Will this be a trend throughout 2017? Stay tuned.

...But Nostalgia’s Appeal Varies Substantially (By Age!)

A second big takeaway is that the appeal of nostalgia is relatively age-specific! In fact, there was a counter-intuitive appeal to the younger demo with the music in these spots. Despite the fact that the 70’s music in the Reese’s and Capital One ads presumably targeted a slightly older demographic (36-55+) and their nostalgia, the ads actually resonated slightly better with the younger demographic (18-35)! Millennials gave the Reese’s ad an 85 overall, whereas the older demographic gave it a slightly lower (but still statistically significant) 82.
March AdNess 18-35 Demographic
What accounts for this difference? Nostalgia by definition is tapping into associations that the audience has with the asset: a song they danced to at prom, for instance. Perhaps the older demo felt the songs were over-exposed, or perhaps they didn’t appreciate the commercial application of the music. Conversely, perhaps the younger demo didn’t bring as many associations to the music, and we were simply pleased by the stories the brands told.

Nostalgia vs Parody

AT&T may also have been trying to evoke nostalgia, albeit with a slightly younger demo. Its “Parking Booth” ad used a comedic adaptation of Aerosmith’s 1998 “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing”. The AT&T ad scored twelve points higher overall for the younger 18-35 demographic than it did for the 35+ demographic. Ultimately, however, the ad missed the mark, getting knocked out by Coca-Cola in the first round. Perhaps the parody failed to resonate with women as well as the original song? There was a big difference in scores between males (80) and females (68). The difference may be more about the lounge singer character in the ad than the music used, played by comedian Dan Finnerty. The other two Final Four spots, by Coca-Cola and Infiniti, leaned heavily on the musical scoring to set their desired tone. Infiniti using inspirational 'psych' music for their "#Unbustable Hardwood Heroes, and Coca-Cola's play on the Cinderella story.

Femme Fatale Finale Four

A third takeaway is that the appeal of the spots in the Final Four varied dramatically by gender. This may be a function, at least in part, of the specific music selections. Out of these final four ads, Reese’s most successfully seduced Females with the combination of chocolate and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”. In fact, females gave the Reese’s spot an 85 overall. Females also scored Infiniti’s ad with a custom musical score four points higher for Inspiring than Males did. On the other hand, in spite of the “girl power” message implicit in Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, Capital One’s ad scored five points lower than Reese’s with females. Coca-Cola’s entry featured an old-timey waltz. While Reese’s took the top spot among Males, Coca-Cola was only two points behind. With Females, however, Coca-Cola’s waltz scored a full eleven points lower overall. This demonstrates that even lesser-known music can still be pretty powerful. For males, Capital One shared the same overall score as Coca-Cola, and Infiniti took fourth place, but only scored three points lower than Capital One and Coca-Cola overall. Males felt a little more inspired by the Coca-Cola and Reese’s ad than they did by the Infiniti ad.

Music Sets The Stage

A final observation is that the ads without a strong musical underpinning tended to be eliminated in the early rounds. Northwestern Mutual’s “Knowing” was the least successful ad of the tournament, and got slaughtered in the first round by Allstate. Allstate in turn didn’t make it out of the second round. Buffalo Wild Wing’s “Foodoo” spot was also knocked out early, in spite of a strong dark humor streak. And Enterprise didn’t make it out of the first round, despite leveraging the undoubtedly popular actress Kristen Bell. It’s absolutely true that not all ads need strong audio. It may be coincidence that none of these spots featured a strong music presence to anchor the spot emotionally...or it may not. We hope you’ve enjoyed March AdNess!

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