Sex may sell, but it doesn’t beat a puppy and a horse


Advertising gurus tell us that sex sells, but it transpires a cute tale about a horse and his attraction to a puppy is a pretty good substitute.

A researcher from Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University is impressed by the latest Budweiser beer commercial, called Puppy Love, which aired during last weekend’s Super Bowl American football final.

A heart-warming moment. Photo: Budweiser
A heart-warming moment. Photo: Budweiser

When it comes to Super Bowl commercials, it’s all about the storytelling, according to Keith Quesenberry, a lecturer in the university’s Center for Leadership Education.

Quesenberry, who teaches marketing, advertising and social media classes, conducted a two-year content analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials.

He found that people rated commercials with dramatic plotlines – the same story arcs favored by classicists like William Shakespeare – significantly higher than ads without clear exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

“People think it’s all about sex or humor or animals, but what we’ve found is that the underbelly of a great commercial is whether it tells a story or not,” Quesenberry said.

This year, a Super Bowl spot cost $US4 million for 30 seconds.

Keith Quesenberry
Keith Quesenberry

Even with 11 million viewers, Quesenberry said advertisers were looking for more – they want to have a commercial that goes viral online. This year, he predicted, that ad will be Budweiser’s tear-jerker about a puppy’s friendship with a horse.

The more complete the story told by a marketer in their commercials, he says, the higher it performs in the ratings polls, the more people like it, want to view it, and share it.

“Budweiser loves to tell stories – whole movies, really, crunched into 30 seconds,” Quesenberry said. “And people love them.”

Quesenberry’s prediction about the Budweiser commercial being the most successful viral ad from the football final may well prove correct, with the one-minute ad having had 43 million views on YouTube at the time of writing.

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