February 5, 2007 12:31 PM PST

Who really won during the Super Bowl?

Who really won during the Super Bowl? And the other winner of the Super Bowl is...Coke.

That's according to brain experts, who for the second time in two years, have studied the neurons firing inside people's gray matter while they watched Super Bowl commercials. FKF Applied Research, with the help of UCLA's Ahmanson Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, said that Coca-Cola's "Video Game" ad--a 60-second animated spot that promotes random acts of kindness--scored this year because it elicited the most positive emotions in subjects' brains.

"Coke's ad did well because it engaged a full range of emotions, including the mirror region, which is associated with connection and empathy," said Joshua Freedman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA and co-founder of FKF Applied Research. "Asking someone what is going on in their brain is in some ways like asking them what is going on in their heart."

Super Bowl ad response images

FKF studied 10 men and women ages 18 to 34 by using UCLA's functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain-imaging system. fMRI is a relatively new technology used to analyze activity, or blood flow, in various centers of the brain that govern people's desires, fears and other cognitive control centers. When specific areas of the brain are active, blood circulation and oxygen increase in those regions, and the imaging technology can detect that activity.

Aside from the relative triviality of Super Bowl ad responses, the technology is fueling a revolution in scientific understanding of the brain and human emotions. In the last five years, fMRI has helped neuroscientists study human choices and behavior, laying the groundwork for the understanding of how people make decisions. Freedman said that the science is now also informing other academic fields like economics, sociology and, of course, marketing.

Through brain imaging, for example, FKF has found that people typically ignore between a third and half of all commercials. And while the Super Bowl is known for its standout and pricey commercials (advertisers reportedly dropped $2.6 million on 30-second spots this year), the 2007 Super Bowl was no exception. "The majority (of ads) elicited very little response," Freedman said.

Top-ranking ads

Coca-Cola: "Video Game"
Doritos: "Live the Flavor"
Bud Light: "Hitchhiker"

Worst-ranking ads

Emerald Nuts: "Robert Goulet"
Honda: "CRV Crave"
Sprint: "Connectile Dysfunction"

Source: FKF Applied Research

The commercials that did fire up people's neurons were largely playing on human fears and anxieties, according to Freedman. That's a recipe for bad marketing, he said, because people typically filter out such commercials after their first viewing.

"This clearly was the year of the amygdala, the brain's 'threat detector,'" he said.

As a result, the big losers were ads like GM's "Robot," which shows a carmaking robot that becomes depressed when it loses its factory job. Another low scorer was Sprint's "Connectile Dysfunction"--a play on erectile dysfunction ads, but for broadband.

The worst commercial, according to FKF, was Emerald Nuts' commercial, which shows entertainer Robert Goulet messing with office workers' stuff while they're asleep.

So if these commercials spark anxiety so well, why aren't they more successful? Freedman said that the brain works in a modular fashion, and a person can be like the CEO of many little brains, weighing various responses in the background like, "Does this make me feel safe? Is this something I want? Will this make me more desirable?" In general, when people are anxious, they will push away whatever is making them feel that way.

In the positive column, FKF found that Doritos' "Live the Flavor" commercial ran neck and neck with Coca-Cola. Doritos' 30-second spot depicted two people--a guy in a car and a girl on the street (each with a bag of Doritos)--who become instantly smitten and then fumble around until they meet.

There's something to be said for chemistry.

See more CNET content tagged:
Super Bowl, brain, Coca-Cola Co., emotion, imaging

55 comments

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I'm Probably Just A Nut, But ...
I'm probably just a nut, but I thought almost all of the ads were pretty luke warm this year. And, I thought the most creative of the bunch **was** the GM robot. I thought that the Coke ad fell flat, maybe because I don't think it should take soda pop to cause one to do a few good deeds.

--mark d.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=26307" target="_newWindow">http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=26307</a>
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Agree
Wasn't horribly impressed by any of them, but I liked the GM Robot one a lot, and everyone in the room thought Connectile Disfunction was amusing. The Coke ad was "ok", the Bud Light ads were the best though - the hitchhiker was easily my favorite of the bunch, but all of those were pretty good.
Posted by mwyner (6 comments )
Link Flag
Bud Light Ripoff
Sadly, the Bus Light "new thing" slapping commercial was ripped off from a skit by a comedy troop called the Whitest Kids U Know.

Here is their skit.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7817230440629685181" target="_newWindow">http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7817230440629685181</a>
Posted by godlessnovel (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Am I On Crazy Pills?
Am I the only one who saw this commercial 2 dozen times over the past 3-4 months BEFORE it aired during the Super Bowl??? It consistently ran at 2 local movie theaters ahead of the actual movie previews. Thus, its not a true Super Bowl ad... right?
Posted by ScottProdigy (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you're right
because if it wasn't that one, then it was something very similar.

Personally my favourite, if you can have a favourite ad, was the one with the dog - and I can't even remember what the product was.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Link Flag
No, You're Right
It ran in theaters for months, yes, but I would bet that most people saw it for the first time that night. Kudos to Coke for saving money, I suppose.
Posted by dbthree (22 comments )
Link Flag
No, You're Right
It ran in theaters for months, yes, but I would bet that most people saw it for the first time last night. Kudos to Coke for saving money, I suppose.
Posted by dbthree (22 comments )
Link Flag
Things better go to the Dentist
How cute that a product that is no more than caffinated candy
water can be associated with "positive" emotion...makes me want to
soak my pancreas in it... OY!
Posted by ihatetv (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So?
Still, it tastes so nice. I could do with a coke right about now actually...

Anyway, everybody knows the Superbowl's a big waste of time. All American sport is.
Posted by o2mcgovem-20822100750713932708 (34 comments )
Link Flag
Violence
I found a HUGE majority of the ads had an element of violence that was really unsettling... from the "rock/paper/scissors" ad in which one person was assaulted with a rock to the slapping ad to the very unfunny ad in which employees were subjected to various kinds of torture. Even some of the milder ads had acts of violence or abuse in them.

Disturbing.
Posted by Rita McKee (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Disturbing?
If TV commercials that portray that amount of "violence" in a comedic fashion disturb you, I think you must find society in general extremely disturbing.
Posted by jmarinis (49 comments )
Link Flag
Let me get this straight...
You are complaining because the one commercial had simulated slapping, another had a person throwing a fake rock at another's head, and yet another had a fake "survivor" theme were to violent....

And yet the real violence...the actual football game...where people are routinely injured, many times permanently...goes without comment.

Rita, come on. If you're such a delicate flower that those commercial bother you, then you certainly shouldn't be watching the actual football game in which these commercials are shown.

Give us a break.
Posted by RacerX7 (24 comments )
Link Flag
Uh...
...it's called slapstick. It's a comedic technique that's been around for quite some time. Get over your overly sensitive self or spend your life cowering in fear of all the "violence" in beer commercials.
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
Worst Super Bowl Ad
Hands down - Snickers
Posted by barryrs (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
snickers ??
that one was really stupid.

I dont think there were too many I found funny at all.

The Taco Bell one with the lions saying "how do my teeth look?" Then ask for sour cream... that made me chuckle. (I love lions)


The "rock, paper scissors" wasn't half bad - but instead of bouncing the rock off the guys head...i was expecting someone else to come and take it. So, maybe I chuckled there too.... The 'depressed robot' Oh please... that was really bad.

all in all, the commercials were terrible this year.

One that I thought was really cute, though it wasn't new -- was it Sports Channel?? With all 3 Mannings and the 2 boys acting like "kids"

Now that was cute.... but it I'd seen it weeks ago.
Posted by tcs1366 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Agree Snickers.
I love Snickers, but I don't think I could eat a big Snickers after watching that. What was their ad agency thinking?

"Hey, let's have two ugly burly guys going down on a big Snickers until they kiss. Then embarrassed and ashamed, each will rip out chest hair to prove he's not gay."

"Yeah. That will be great! We can offend gay people AND repulse straight people with just one commercial."

Amazing.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
What kind of irresponsible moron...
agrees to fMRI monitoring of commercial propaganda? This is the ethical equivalent to participating in a study that helps to improve the efficiency of genocide.
Posted by vm019302 (85 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Drama Queen
All I have to say is, wow.
Posted by tEA-TiME (11 comments )
Link Flag
What?
Are you comparing television advertising to mass genocide?

Seriously, you're the moron. I suggest you consult a dictionary and/or a psychologist.
Posted by o2mcgovem-20822100750713932708 (34 comments )
Link Flag
This study is not about advertising.
It is about how the brain responds to different types of stimuli. Think of a day when a kid who is having trouble learning math can have a scan done while he is trying to solve problems, then have his educational material tailored to the way his brain works.

Picture a day farther in the future when a students lessons are tailored from second to second. Is the student getting board? change stuff up. Does the student not understand what you are saying? rephrase it.

Picture a day when a terrorist has planted a bomb. No one knows where it is. Show him a map and some pictures of different places. When you show him the place the bomb is, you will know.

Are there ways that this can and will be abused? Yes, but keeping this in the public view vs some closed lab somewhere will make it harder to use in a bad way.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Intellectual Hooey
with only 10 subjects to be studied, this is so full of pure hype, I can only resubmit last years comment to quasi Brainiac marketers and S. Olsen...
This "Scientific" endeaver ranks right up there with stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk.
How many fMRI machines were used on how many people?
This seems to be a plug for Joshua Freedman's Nexus EQ Change Mangement. It's not worth Six Seconds. With Brother Tom Freedman, they founded FKF Applied Research(Freedman Knapp &#38; Freedman I assume).
Now do they own the MRI machines or do their Non-Profit Org. get to use U.C.L.A equipment. Are UCLA Students really interns for these guys? Is Stepanie Olsen just a front newsperson for connected P.R. Statements? We deserve a crumb of good hard data if we have to eat this intellectual hooey.
Posted by ctambour (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They are looking at large structures.
I don't think you will see a large variation in response from person to person. sample size should not be an issue. The next stage would be to predict peoples reaction to new commercials before they are scanned. I would also like to see the data replicated by another university.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
High Anxiety
Who says that making people feel contented is a way to induce the need for something. High anxiety is the great motivator in George W. Bush's America, everyone knows that. So I'd suspect people will be buying from Emerald Nuts, Inc. quicker than they bought the War on Terror, Inc.
Posted by svensk66 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
"Brokeback" Snickers was definitely one of the worst
And almost no one I spoke to after the game had a clue what Coke's warm &#38; fuzzy GTA was all about.

For the first time in a long time, the game was the only thing worth watching.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Snickers was THE worst.
IMHO.

I love Snickers, but I don't think I could eat a big Snickers after watching that. What was their ad agency thinking?

"Hey, let's have two ugly burly guys going down on a big Snickers until they kiss. Then embarrassed and ashamed, each will rip out chest hair to prove he's not gay."

"Yeah. That will be great! We can offend gay people AND repulse straight people with just one commercial."

Amazing.



I liked the Coke GTA ad though.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Link Flag
I disagree I thought it was the funniest
Its funny how straight men that arent confident with their sexuality have a problem with something that might be seen as gay. The comercial was funny and its a shame you were raised with no sense of humor. Grow up and enjoy life instead of crying about it.
Posted by Zupek (85 comments )
Link Flag
I disagree I thought it was the funniest
Its funny how straight men that arent confident with their sexuality have a problem with something that might be seen as homosexual. The commercial was funny and its a shame you were raised with no sense of humor(you can thank god for that). Grow up and enjoy life instead of crying about it.
Posted by Zupek (85 comments )
Link Flag
I disagree I thought it was the funniest
Its funny how straight men that arent confident with their sexuality have a problem with something that might be seen as homosexual. The commercial was funny and its a shame you were raised with no sense of humor(you can thank god for that). Gr0w up and enjoy life instead of crying about it.
Posted by Zupek (85 comments )
Link Flag
I thought it was the funniest
Its funny how straight men that arent confident with their sexuality have a problem with something that might be seen as homosexual. The commercial was funny and its a shame you were raised with no sense of humor(you can thank god for that). Gr0w up and enjoy life instead of crying about it.
Posted by Zupek (85 comments )
Link Flag
I thought it was the funniest
Its funny how straight men that arent confident with their sexuality have a problem with something that might be seen as ****-sexual. The commercial was funny and its a shame you were raised with no sense of humor(you can thank god for that). Gr0w up and enjoy life instead of whinning about it.
Posted by Zupek (85 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah... I'm Sure.
I highly doubt the game was worth watching. I'd rather grass grow or paint dry than watch the superbowl.

Americans can't "do" sport. Simple as.
Posted by o2mcgovem-20822100750713932708 (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, touché
If there was a sporting endeavor taking place somewhere within that great over-hyped spectacle of cynical consumerism, it was certainly easy to overlook.
Posted by vm019302 (85 comments )
Link Flag
Beard combover from Sierra Mist was the high point
Bud was a close 2nd with the hitchhiker. I'd forgotten Coke even had commercials in there, so how did they win?
Posted by ejevo (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's EXACTLY the point
The fMRI isn't simply measuring whether you liked the commercial or thought it was memorable. It's also measuring its impact on your brain at subconscious levels. The goal is not to determine whether you found it entertaining, it's to determine if it's effective in brainwashing you to buy the product.
Posted by larryc92039 (41 comments )
Link Flag
Beard combover
The commercial was definitely over the top but i almost spit all over the floor. the beard combover was so funny and jim gafligan had the best straight face for the joke.
Posted by shadowlord6343 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Letterman. Hands down.
Just because they didn't have to pay $5M/minute doesn't mean this
wasn't the most clever, creative, and funny ad during the
broadcast.

No contest.

And no one over 27 understood the GTA Coke commercial.
Posted by qprize (237 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I did.
I thought of it as the anti GTA commercial.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Letterman vs. Prince
I think Prince won. I bet sales of "Purple Rain" go up. But yeah, I loved that Letterman/Oprah bit too.
Posted by mandrake3k (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I can't for the life of me figure out...
why people get so excited about bowling.
Posted by extinctone (214 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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