LONDON: After all the hype around the ads developed for the Super Bowl and the Oscars, a sober assessment of big events advertising has concluded that emotional brand engagement is necessary to justify the millions spent.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, the focus of which is big event marketing, Robert Passikoff, president of consumer engagement consultancy Brand Keys, offered little consolation to brands like Budweiser.

"Noble Clydesdales and warm puppies may entertain, but they don't sell beer," he declared.

That assessment was based on a Brand Keys study of the effects of advertising by ten brands during four big events in 2014 – Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup – and two holidays – Easter and Thanksgiving.

This involved, Passikoff explained, a rather more rigorous approach to ROI metrics than simply counting social media sharing, Likes and YouTube views, something many marketers continue to do.

"A laugh, a sigh, a tweet, a 'like' or sharing of the ad between 'friends' aren't really acceptable returns on the time, effort and money these kind of big events require," he stated.

"What brands ultimately require are high levels of emotional brand engagement to justify the 'big event' investment."

So Brand Keys compared a brand's big event commercial with benchmark brand engagement metrics to establish how well the ad increased or decreased consumers' levels of emotional engagement with the brand.

The metrics derived had been shown, said Passikoff, to correlate "very highly" with positive in-market behaviour and sales.

So while Budweiser's horse and puppies were found to be very entertaining – 54m YouTube views and 19m social shares – they were "not at all brand engaging" as the emotional engagement metric dropped nine percentage points and Americans continued to drink 40% less of the beer than a decade ago.

At the 2014 Academy Awards, retailer JC Penney's effort – When it fits, you feel it – wasn't a hit on social media, registering just 13 Likes and a little over 1,000 shares. But same-store sales rose 6% and revenue beat expectations at $2.8bn.

"An ad that entertains, but does not increase brand engagement levels, usually does not result in positive effects in the marketplace," said Passikoff.

"An ad that engenders high increases in engagement always does. An ad that does both is the most effective of all."

Data sourced from Admap