Professors receive recognition for ad studies

Story by Emily Albrent

 

Super Bowl Sunday is not just about football; it’s also a day known for its unique commercials and advertising campaigns.

Rama Yelkur and Chuck Tomkovick, both professors of marketing at UW-Eau Claire who have been studying Super Bowl advertisements together since 1998, made a discovery that has recently garnered international attention.

This year, their research focused on sex appeal in ads, and the data they collected has shown that provocative ads are less liked among viewers. Those ads that dealt with sex were given low ratings, while commercials that had to do with animals, specifically dogs, and children were rated high.

Yelkur said sex appeal does not necessarily drive ad likeability on its own. It must have other factors, such as humor, to drive them higher in rankings.

“Our theory is that people are watching in a family atmosphere and this is not the time they want to see racy ads,”  Yelkur said.

Yelkur and Tomkovick said that not only is the timing off, but sexiness is simply not enough.

“Sex appeal works when you have a cover story,” Tomkovick said. “If you are doing a Victoria’s Secret ad, selling that kind of appeal, that makes sense. But
normally you need something in addition to sex appeal.”

According to Tomkovick, well over a thousand ads have been studied by he and Yelkur. The Super Bowl runs an average of 50 ads and they watch each of them about five to 10 times.

“We have studies where we predict what will be likable and people have been following our scripts,” Tomkovick said. “We have been saying animals and celebrities and humor and you know what, the dogs ran away with the show last night.”

The research has also been important in other ways. It is not just about predicting and paving the way to future advertising techniques, but it’s also bringing attention to the university.

“Students get published from our university, I love that,” Tomkovick said. “Our university gets its name into the press.”

Tomkovick started off by talking to his marketing students about the Super Bowl advertisements.

“It’s the biggest day in advertising, and I teach advertising, and you can’t beat the real thing,” Tomkovick said.

Senior Kristen Mitrenga believes that sex appeal is not always the best tool to use, especially when you are around others besides your friends.

“I watched the Super Bowl with my parents, and I was like, ‘Oh, God,’” she said. “ I didn’t want to explain them to my parents. I thought it was just a little too much. It is supposed to be a family entertainment program and having those provocative ads ruins the experience for some younger viewers.”

Mitrenga said these ads may be effective for some people, but they did not influence her to buy the products being sold.

However, not everyone feels that the provocative commercials should have been given such a low rating. Sophomore Jesse Martinez thinks that they were efficient.

“I thought they were just fine. I didn’t have any problems with them. They got me to want to buy a Fiat,” said Martinez, in reference to one particular car advertisement.

However, Tomkovick feels that lack of creativity sometimes leads to commercials that use sex appeal, he said.

“It’s kind like profanity for a comedian,” he said. “If you are not very funny, then maybe you can swear and people will laugh a little bit with your swearing. So if you are not good at advertising, I supposed that you could use over-the-top sex appeal to be noticed, but the key in marketing is not to run a freak show but to have some respect.”