Men and women see Super Bowl commercials differently, says new research


It’s all in the attitude.

That explains why men and women watching the same Super Bowl commercial can see different things in it, Michael Horn, VP Research at Resonate Insights, told us in a telephone interview.

This top-line result from a fourth-quarter survey of more than 100,000 consumers selected for representative panels suggests useful lessons for advertisers too small and too local to make what Horn calls “a $4 million gamble” on 30 seconds of Super Bowl air time.

Not seeing eye to eye

Male sports-watchers, the survey showed, are 40 percent more likely to be motivated by feelings of of achievement and 75 percent more likely by feelings of personal freedom and control.

Women, on the other hand, are 65 percent more likely to seek feelings of self-esteem (something which can exist completely independent of achievement) and 63 percent more likely to seek feelings of shared experiences.

Men prefer the products they buy to be innovative (Did I hear someone say “toys for boys”?), while women prefer products that are socially responsible, fun and good-looking.

Men are more likely to buy beer, liquor, cars and insurance, while women are more likely to buy wine, tea or coffee, apparel, yogurt and children’s products.

The battle for men’s (and women’s) minds

Throughout its existence, the advertising industry has been battling to get inside consumers’ minds and learn what makes them tick in the marketplace.

Up to the early 20th century, the only tool they had – and it was a crude one – was geography. Just learning the names of local newspapers and their contact information was a struggle.

With improved communication and statistical research came demographic data – not just what general area people lived in, but also their age, marital status, family size, household income, education level, occupation, and so on.

But in the late 1970s, a breakthrough study called Values and Lifestyles demonstrated the inadequacies of demographics alone. Two families living next door to each other could have similar sizes and incomes but very different ways of living and priorities (belonging vs. individuality, for example). This led to psychographics becoming as important as demographics.

With widespread use of computers and the Internet, it became possible to track consumers’ actual behavior, as measured by which websites they visited and what they bought online. (This can lead to simpleminded errors, though, such as the Chevrolet ads that always appear next to our articles raking the brand’s advertising over the coals.)

Now, Horn says, knowing people’s attitudes and attributes can take the process a step further.

Full circle

The best copywriters, art directors and creative directors always had excellent instincts for what their audiences thought and felt, but instinct isn’t quantifiable.

Now, quantifiable data shows that they may have had something all along, because it shows, according to Horn, that one of the most effective ways to target is with the creative content and execution.

Using what you know about the attributes of consumers being exposed to your message, and their attitudes to the medium and your product category, “you can actually target people who have those attributes – or who don’t,” he explains.

The right creative message, he adds, can “avoid waste and overindexing” that result from “telling the audience the wrong message. You can have your cake and eat it too.”

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