Darth Vader Volkswagen ad top in Kellogg review of Superbowl commercials

Stephanie Kim

The Darth Vader commercial was a hit.

During the Super Bowl, this ad for Volkswagen was rated alongside the other anticipated game day spots by the 2011 Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, headed by Kellogg School of Management Profs. Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker.

The professors released their results on the review’s blog Monday, with Volkswagen on top with its Darth Vader and beetle spots. Other A-rated spots include Chrysler, Doritos, Mini Cooper, E-Trade and Bridgestone.

Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at Kellogg, has led the annual review since 2005. It compromises Kellogg students handpicked from the Kellogg Marketing Club based on their involvement. Before the review became public and formalized, he led review panels in his marketing strategy class, in which he taught a six-step strategy to advertisement analysis. He called it ADPLAN, which stands for attention, distinction, positioning, linkage, amplification and net equity.

He then asked his students to apply these principles to the spots.

Calkins said the panel of 38 students essentially looked for how the spots broke down within the ADPLAN framework, how well-branded they were and if they delivered a benefit.

“With our panel, our focus is really on looking at the ad with the business strategy lens. We try to really think about what’s most effectively building the brand and interest,” Calkins said.

He said his point of view aligned with the panel’s on the majority of their reviews, and he was surprised at how effectively they identified the best spots.

One of Calkins’s personal favorites of the night was Chrysler’s commercial featuring Eminem.

“I have a huge amount of respect for Chrysler for running a brave and risky commercial,” Calkins said. “It put some heart into the Chrysler brand.”

He said he also enjoyed the Bud Light product placement spot and thought it was “terrific,” even though it only received a B from the panel. The review said the Bud Light spot was the “best of the bunch,” but the other commercials from the beer company were “funny, brand-focused and entertaining.”

Second-year Kellogg graduate student Leslie Wade said the annual review helped in making her decision to complete her education at NU.

“It’s one of the reasons Kellogg was put on the map for me after reading articles and coverage of the panel in The Wall Street Journal,” Wade said. “It was exciting to be on the other side of it.”

Weinberg senior Gabriela Gonzalez said her favorite commercials were the Volkswagen Darth Vader and Chrysler spot.

“The Chrysler one was particularly interesting because it was all about the Detroit kind of mindset and the tone of the town and making luxury accessible,” Gonzalez said. “The voice-over was saying it’s not only about who it’s for but also who it’s by. I thought it was a really interesting technique.”

Calkins said they do hear from the companies whose advertisements they review wanting feedback on their spots. However, the core reason of the review is to give students the opportunity to apply the marketing strategies they learn in class to a real-world experience.

The panel viewed the Groupon, Chevrolet, BMW and Coke spots as the most disappointing. But as a whole, Calkins said he was impressed by the spots this year.

“I think this was a terrific year for Super Bowl advertising,” Calkins said. “Of course, there were some highs and lows. Some worked better than others. But I was impressed by the quality and effort put in by advertisers in creating effective commercials.”

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