Stiller’s Bad Golf Day a Hit for AT&T


Epic Bad Golf Day


AT&T’s new ad with Ben Stiller gets the most out of its star by telling an epic story of the worst imaginable round of golf. Timed to coincide with the US Masters Tournament, the ad, from agency BBDO, sees Stiller play so badly that his shots take him off the course, into the wilderness, and ultimately have him get so lost he forgets his own name.

It’s a wild and hilarious commercial which takes to a hyperbolic extreme the frustration any golfer feels when their shots just won’t go right. And it makes good use of Ben Stiller, best known for playing hapless comedy roles just like this, putting him into increasingly ludicrous situations like climbing mountains and riding buffaloes. For golf fans, there’s also a cameo from Jordan Speith, who Stiller ultimately has to contact for help. Stiller uses his AT&T satellite phone for the job, justifying the brand’s involvement in the ad.

But that branding only comes in quite late in the course of the ad. AT&T’s presence is subdued early on, and a lot of the comments we picked up on the Test Your Ad platform commented on this confusion – they were surprised the ad was for AT&T, or thought they were watching an ad related to golf. While the ad achieved a good Brand Fluency score, as audiences caught on to AT&T’s involvement by the end, it’s still a possible missed opportunity, and the late branding contributed to the low short-term Spike Rating.

That’s a shame, as audiences enjoyed the ad a lot when it got going. Once Stiller’s bizarre golf quest got underway, the ad had a very positive second-by-second emotional trace, with a lot of happiness for viewers. That slow, confusing start probably helped pull down the overall result, though, with a 3.4-Star Rating overall.

The fact is that for a telecoms brand, that’s a very good result – the sector average is a mere 2.0-Stars. There’s no question that AT&T’s ad stands out in a category where product claims dominate and where it’s as hard for audiences to find an entertaining joke as it is for Ben Stiller to find that lost golf ball. The main association audiences have with the ad is “funny”, and as well as humour it has lots of other features which appeal to the right-brain, like a narrative, lots of non-verbal communication and facial expressions, and a single central character.

Ultimately this is a good ad with a slightly weaker, more confusing opening, and that confusion has hit its overall effectiveness. In golf terms, AT&T could have had an eagle, but they’re having to settle for a birdie.

Create 5-star ads

The more people feel, the more they buy

The most effective ads boost sales and drive long-term growth. They do it by making people feel more - building positive associations with a recognisable brand. We predict sales and growth impacts by measuring emotion, letting you make ads that entertain for commercial gain.

Try Test Your Ad