Ads For Ads?! Testing The Super Bowl Teasers

For the third year in a row we are testing Super Bowl ads LIVE on game night. For the fastest results, most predictive ratings and best commentary bookmark this page.

Every Super Bowl now comes with an extra warm-up routine – a horde of trailers and teasers for brands’ big game ads. Super Bowl ads are such a big investment for brands that they now require ads in their own right. Ads for ads – have brands gone mad? (Short answer: no, though as we’ll see, they may be on LSD.)


Teasers have one main purpose for brands, and it’s not really to build anticipation for a specific ad. Their message is pretty much always the same: we are a big enough brand that we’re advertising at the Super Bowl. It’s what psychologists call costly signalling, a display of money and strength like a peacock’s tail – it’s not really effective for anything but it shows that you have the resources to do something enormous.

As such the audience for teasers are competitors, marketers and investors as much as consumers. For instance, Burger King’s “teaser” is deliberately content-free. Taken as an ad in its own right, it’s mind-numbing – their brand mascot adjusts a camera and shuffles about like a confused uncle trying to take their first selfie. But Burger King has been away from the Super Bowl for over a decade, so this is an ad that’s talking to other marketers and saying “we’re back”.


The Burger King teaser tells us absolutely nothing about how good the brand’s actual ad will be. Which is just as well, since the teaser, like most Super Bowl teasers, scored 1-Star in our testing. Teasers are usually bad predictors of a parent ad’s quality, and they also generally test very poorly. It’s extremely rare for a Super Bowl trailer to score over 3-Stars.

That’s not surprising when you think about it – teasers are intentionally designed to feel unfinished. One of our lowest scoring trailers this year is a teaser for Pepsi which simply features rapper Lil Jon looking into camera while drinking from a bottomless Pepsi bottle. The only emotion it’s trying to spark is a vague “WTF” feeling. Its 1-Star score was inevitable – but the Pepsi ad is one of Sunday night’s more anticipated spots.


What you can do with trailers is use them to look at possible trends. And the trailers suggest a Super Bowl laced with LSD – Laughs, Stars and Dogs. Celebrities and humour are a common element and when in doubt a brand can always rely on man’s best friend. The top-scoring teaser – Avocados From Mexico’s 3-Star “Chorus” – is the only ad to use all three.

These are regular elements in most Super Bowls and suggest another fairly conservative year. Two other 3-Star teasers – for Planters (using its iconic Peanut mascot) and PepsiCo’s seltzer competitor bubly – both show celebrities being humbled for comic effect. This is almost always a good route to emotional impact – think Danny DeVito in last year’s M&Ms spot or Melissa McCarthy for Kia in 2017.

What we aren’t seeing is as important as what we are. Kia – the only brand to skip the L,S,D formula entirely – is the only teaser with a hint of purpose. This still might be the year of Brand Purpose at the Super Bowl – there might be a Nike or a Gillette in the wings – but not on the evidence of the teasers so far. Perhaps that’s for the best – Kia’s teaser got 1-Star.

For all our Super Bowl Teaser scores, click HERE.

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