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Ad Expert: Emotional Appeals Won the 2021 Ad Bowl

February 9, 2021

When Dr. Rama Yelkur, a professor in the School of Business at St. John Fisher College, watched the 2021 Super Bowl, it’s safe to say she paid more attention to the commercials than the game. Yelkur, who was joined by Professor Ron Sicker and several marketing students, watched the ads to code and analyze each commercial’s likability.

While there were mainstay elements of this year’s ads—there was an equal amount of humor and emotional appeal, which is usual—Yelkur noted that a surprising third of brands who advertised in the Super Bowl made their first ever appearance.

Yelkur said that the perfect Super Bowl commercial boils down to having a clever combination of appeals that the audience will enjoy. She said this year’s companies delivered on that recipe.

“There was an endless amount of humor mixed with celebrities and emotional commercials that really made this time around a year to remember,” she said.

Among her favorites was the ad for Amazon’s “Alexa,” where actor Michael B. Jordan takes the body of the virtual assistant. The commercial starts with a female employee dreaming of what a physical form of “Alexa” would look like. While dreaming, that person is Michael B. Jordan, known for his role in Marvel’s “Blank Panther.” The employee then puts herself in a cluster of entertaining and romantic sequences with Jordan, where she would soon be interrupted by her husband.

“This commercial shows the perfect appeal to an audience with a celebrity appearance and entertainment, driven by humor,” Yelkur said.

The M&M commercial also earned high praise from Yelkurwhere a bag of candy can be “a gift to be given as an apology.” Dan Levy, from Schitt’s Creek fame, appeared in the commercial full of apologies in response to kicking someone’s seat on an airplane (on purpose), calling someone a “Karen,” and ruining a gender reveal.

“The message was simple. As long as you have a bag of M&Ms to ask for forgiveness, then you can do almost anything,” said Yelkur.  “This ad wants to get a message across, that even in a pandemic; we can all come together in forgiveness and live happily.”

This article was written by Salvatore Saunders ’23, a marketing and communications intern in the School of Business.