She Said, He Said: Super Bowl LI Edition
Let’s face it, America’s been through some polarising times in the past year. From Ryan Lochte to the perils of Pokemon Go, it seems there’s a lot we disagree about. But one thing that still brings over 100 million Americans together is the Super Bowl. And it’s not just the action on the field that has us all taking turns cheering and groaning—the big game’s advertising has its own set of fans and scorekeeping. We wondered if men and women might view these ads differently.
So, for the second year in a row, we reached out to Super Bowl viewers across America and asked them about their reactions to the ads they saw during the big game. We gave everyone a chance to tell us about their favourite ads, as well as their least favourite ads. Then we asked more focused questions about 13 ads in particular. Here’s a closer look at what we learned.
1. Women Are Less Likely To “Pre-Game” the Ads
Women were more likely than men to say they had not seen or heard about an ad before the game across all 13 ads. Two ads—Audi’s “Drive Progress” spot and Budweiser’s “The Hard Way” spot—emerged as the most likely to have been watched by women before the game, with about 1 in 4 women having previewed each. In fact, “The Hard Way” was the most-previewed across genders, with 1 in 3 men having watched it before the game.
2. Women Are More Likely To Feel That the Advertising Spoke to Them
When asked whether an ad felt like it was speaking to them, women were more likely than men to agree in nearly all cases. In fact, there were several ads that zero men felt were speaking to them, including Mr. Clean, TurboTax, Lifewtr, Buick, GoDaddy and Yellow Tail. On the other hand, both men and women were most likely to feel that the Audi ad spoke to them. Here again, however, women were twice as likely to feel that way compared to men. As one woman observed, “I liked this ad because it was told through the perspective of a dad … he gets that his daughter will face bias, simply based on her gender.” So for some women, it’s not just that an ad is speaking to them that counts. It’s feeling that, finally, a brand is hearing them. Guess it just took millions of women marching across America to “Drive Progress.” Yay?
3. A Few Ads Captured the Most Attention, Regardless of Gender
The ad that garnered the most unaided “favourite” status in our first open-end question of the survey across genders was 84 Lumber’s “Journey.” It was also among the most memorable—more than 3 in 4 men and women said they remembered it well. Perhaps that was because it sparked some of the most conversation, both during and after the game, regardless of gender.
The other ad that sparked the most in-game conversation among both men and women? Mr. Clean. Not only was it in the top 3 of unaided favourites for women, but it was also the ad men were most likely to have posted something positive about on social media. Of course, on the other hand, it was the ad women were most likely to describe as offensive. One woman described the concept of “a woman fantasising about a cartoon” as simply “appalling.” So, you can’t win them all!
Finally, the Audi ad earned a lot of chatter among our respondents. Unaided, it was the second most popular spot among women. And 62% of women said they remember it well (compared to 50% of the men). Not only did men and women feel that it spoke to them, but they also ranked it in their top two for brands they were more likely to support as a result of the advertising.
4. Women and Men Agree: Socially Driven Advertising May Be Worth the Risk
Americans overwhelmingly indicated that they respect brands that make a political or social statement in their advertising, with 70% of women and 75% of men agreeing. So it’s not surprising that Audi and 84 Lumber earned so much positive feedback in our survey. One woman said of the Audi spot: “It blew me away that it was so direct … this one was so front and centre and had no qualms about what it was.” 84 Lumber has sparked a lot of political debate about the company’s intentions in the few days since its ad debuted, but there’s no doubt that viewers in-game took the spot at face value: a “beautiful” story about a “mom and daughter coming to America.”
Of course, a brand could always go the opposite way. Yellow Tail’s spot was the advertising equivalent of a time machine trip to some bygone era, where tacky men approach swimsuited women with awkward attempts at innuendo (no—nobody wants to pet your roo!). Incidentally, this was the ad women found most boring or underwhelming. So, good luck with that, Yellow Tail!
Perhaps one of the biggest headlines of this year is that men and women seemed to be much more closely aligned on their reactions and behaviours compared to last year’s game. Perhaps that’s a reflection of the growing shift in advertising trends—away from gender stereotypes and toward a more direct approach to issues that actually matter to people regardless of gender. We’ll see what happens next year!