Pepsi and Bud Light Lead the Way in Early Super Bowl Testing

The early results of our Super Bowl testing (using our suite of market research platforms) are in – and Pepsi and Bud Light have cause to celebrate. Pepsi’s revival of its 1992 ad with Cindy Crawford, and Bud Light’s viral “Dilly Dilly” ads, have both registered strong results on System1’s tests. Together they throw a spotlight on one of the most important, but least known, aspects of advertising success: Fluency.

The idea of Fluency derives from what psychologists call Processing Fluency – the time it takes to recognise and mentally process information, for instance a choice of brands. The higher a brand’s Fluency, behavioural science tells us, the more desirable a choice it is. When you’re shopping, for instance, Fluency is vital – rapid recognition of a brand’s logo helps you pick it up without having to pause or consciously consider your options.

In advertising, though, Fluency is a double-edged sword. Yes, you can plaster your logo everywhere, but that runs the risk of distracting viewers from your story, jokes, or visual effects and turning them off emotionally. Since it’s emotional response that drives long-term growth from ads, that’s a big problem. One of the most common mistakes advertisers make is to trade Feeling for Fluency in this way.

Much better to use a distinctive brand asset that brings your brand instantly to mind and makes people happy at the same time. That’s why “Fluent Devices” – recurrent characters or slogans in a campaign – are so  valuable for advertisers.

This year Bud Light have the makings of a great fluent device with their medieval king and his catchphrase “Dilly Dilly!”. It may not mean anything, but fluent devices don’t have to have complex meanings – usually, they’re just entertaining. Encouragingly for the beer brand, the “Dilly Dilly” monarch’s ads are getting more effective as they go on. “Pep Talk”, the last one released pre-Super Bowl, got 3-Stars and its highest score yet.

In other good news for Bud Light, each successive new “Dilly Dilly” ad is getting a higher Spark rating too.  Spark is our predictive measure for short-term sales impact – the higher it over-indexes, the more of an instant boost we expect the ad to bring when aired.

Traditional Fluent Devices have been employed by brands over the course of several years – “Dilly Dilly” is only a few months old, and the appearance at Sunday’s game will be the campaigns 7th spot already. Given the rapid timeframes of modern advertising, these short-term gains will be very welcome for Bud Light. But there’s still an opportunity for the king and his catchphrase to go higher than 3-Stars on game night, and cement the campaign as one which can benefit Bud for years to come.

And speaking of the longer term, on hearing that Pepsi were riffing on their iconic 1992 Cindy Crawford commercial in this year’s game, we went ahead and tested that original ad with a modern audience with our ad testing and brand testing platforms. And, yes, it still holds up. In fact, its 4-Star rating was well ahead of almost all of the 2018 ads or teasers we’ve tested so far.

Why does a 26-year-old ad beat the 2018 crop? A lot of it is down to the nostalgia factor – people remember the ad, and recognise Cindy Crawford and the old Pepsi branding. In other words, it’s Fluency at work again. Familiarity breeds contentment, not contempt. Simply digging up old ads isn’t a strategy that will work for every brand, of course – they aren’t all as well executed as the old Pepsi spot. But the warm reception for the original suggests Pepsi may be onto a winner with their retro move.

We’ll be testing every nationally broadcast ad as it airs furing Super Bowl 52, using our award-winning ad testing methodology – the only one which puts emotion at the centre to predict long-term profitability.

This year, we’re making it even easier to get the live test results. All you need is this link:

We’ll be updating the website automatically all through the game. No refreshing, no updating, no checking – just glance at the site and you’ll know which ads are ruling the night.

Of course, if you do want to delve a little deeper, you can.

  • We’ll be tweeting commentary on the ads – make sure you’re following @system1research on Twitter.
  • We’ll be putting up quick videos with commentary and analysis on our System1 YouTube Channel and our System1 LinkedIn account.
  • We’ll be bringing you our usual quarter-by-quarter analysis and Monday Morning Quarterbacking right here on the blog.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident, creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand tracking tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.

Get in touch or book a demo with one of our experts to learn more.

Get In Touch

Got a Marketing problem? We'd love to hear about it. Tell us what you're looking for and we'll get in touch ASAP.