UA ad experts speak on Super Bowl commercials

Ashanka Kumari

Each year, some of the biggest parts of the Super Bowl are the creative advertisements shown in between game plays. Various beer, snack and electronic companies, to name a few, spend millions of dollars for these ads, but what if the University of Alabama joined the list?

Joseph Phelps, professor and chair of the department of advertising and public relations, said he imagines a UA Super Bowl ad showcasing championship.

“The Super Bowl identifies a champion,” Phelps said. “The winner is the number one professional football team. I can envision a Super Bowl ad for the University of Alabama showing our academic programs and the students in these programs as champions.”

The UA department of advertising and public relations has been among the top five programs in the U.S. in each of the last four years, Phelps said.

“On March 1, during a ceremony in New York, [the Department of Advertising and Public Relations] will find out if it has been named the top program in the country for this year,” Phelps said. “That is a championship moment, and such championship moments can become defining moments when they are communicated well to the viewers.”

Teri K. Henley, a UA ad team adviser, said the time process for creating an ad varies. A large amount of research goes into understanding the internal and external environment, and the process can take weeks or months, depending on the number of factors.

“First, a team has to determine why it is advertising and who it wants to advertise to,” Henley said. “Sometimes the research is just secondary, but often, it involves primary research such as surveys, focus groups or in-depth interviews.

“After there is a clear understanding of the situation, then there must be a creative brief that summarizes the information, and only then does the creative team begin coming up with ideas that communicate the agreed-upon strategy. Once the creative team has an idea, they would storyboard it and present it to the client for approval or go back to the drawing board, and if it is agreed upon by all parties, it would go into production.”

The Super Bowl is watched by many people and is one of the few venues where ads can become part of pop culture, Henley said.

“This year, there has been an increasing trend to release the ad before the game,” Henley said. “The goal is to create buzz and excitement about the ad. The Honda ‘Ferris Bueller’ ad is an example of that, as is the ‘Star Wars’ barking dogs ad. Ads in the Super Bowl often work because they are humorous and entertaining.”

Gabe Fry, a junior majoring in business, said he wishes that all commercials received as much effort as Super Bowl commercials appear to get.

“Sometimes it seems like the game is less important than the commercials,” Fry said. “Something that makes Super Bowl commercials interesting is when they tell a story like the Google one about the student who went to France and ended up staying there and meeting the love of his life with the help of the search engine.”