'The Most Effective Brands Tell a Story Over Time': Advertising Professor Reflects on Super Bowl Winners and Losers

Before Mike Jackson, ’78, returned to Kent State University as a professional-in-residence, he worked for renowned brands like General Motors and Coors on advertising campaigns, including Super Bowl ads. Today, he teaches advertising in the School of Media and Journalism and is faculty advisor for the Kent State chapter of American Advertising Federation (AAF). Following Super Bowl LVIII, he provided insight into the advertising winners and losers for 2024.

“This year, I felt like almost every brand, even the newcomers, were kind of playing it quote/ unquote — safe — if you will,” said Jackson, “The big winner for me, and it’s one that I admire because the most effective brands tell a story over time, they don’t just look at a one-off kind of execution, is Dunkin’.”

Dunkin's strategic use of humor; bringing in celebrities like Ben Affleck, Tom Brady and Jennifer Lopez; releasing teasers before the airdate and continuously airing the ad post-Super Bowl demonstrates a savvy approach to creating brand awareness. Using teasers, especially with social media, extends the longevity of advertisements in unprecedented ways, Jackson said.

“Companies have really found a nice balance; initially, we would hold our Super Bowl ads like they were a private event,” said Jackson, “I think Dunkin’ is a great example of them planning a whole campaign using the Super Bowl as the foundation.”

Mike Jackson

Celebrity partnerships in Super Bowl ads are also rising, but Jackson says their success depends upon the execution. For example, Jackson says, “while everyone loves her,” Verizon and Beyoncé’s ad felt more like a music announcement than an ad for Verizon.

“Not having the right foundation of research and insights to ensure the association is going to be perceived as authentic … it’s going to come across as flat,” Jackson said of celebrity partnerships and endorsements.

Another consideration in using public figures in Super Bowl ads is the fact that anything can happen — a scandal or major news story involving the celebrity or even death. The latter happened this year; sports betting app FanDuel partnered with actor, director and former football player Carl Weathers, who died a little over a week before the Super Bowl. The ad was themed around retired tight end Rob Gronkowski’s “Kick of Destiny.”

“They edited the ad to play less emphasis on Gronkowski missing the field goal, and then put the elegant emphasis on celebrating the life of Carl Weathers,” said Jackson. “I thought it was very, very smart and tasteful, and I was curious before how they were going to handle that.”

Overall, Jackson says advertisements seem to be shifting toward prioritizing brand awareness over humor to sell products — a potential evolution in future Super Bowl commercials.

AAF Group

Jackson incorporates his real-world experience into his role as professional-in-residence. As faculty advisor to the advertising student organization, Jackson has spearheaded affiliation with the American Advertising Federation (AAF). AAF membership grants unique benefits, including internship and mentorship programs and participation in a national advertising competition hosted by P&G this year. Students of all majors are welcome. The next meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20 in 314 Franklin Hall. 

POSTED: Thursday, February 15, 2024 04:44 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2024 04:44 PM
Eve Krejci, '24