Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Which ads scored on the Olympic podium?

TODD SMITH — Which ads scored on the Olympic podium?



When the 2016 Olympics began, many TV advertisers were crossing their fingers that their strategy would pay off. Reaching an estimated 26.5 million total viewers in the U.S., they were hoping their ads scored Olympic gold with the right audiences.

To answer the pay-off question, advertisers will predominantly look at three specific areas of performance, according to Google Analytics:

1. Which ads were noticed by the audience?

2. Which ads drove interest, shifted perception, and increased intent?

3. Which ads drove actual consumer response?

To get some insights into these questions, Google evaluated the top 10 brands (based on total ad minutes) that aired ads during the live broadcast of the opening ceremonies. The analysis is based on a combination of consumer surveys and second-screen (mobile, desktop, and tablet) response data. Presented in a live Google Data Studio dashboard, the result is a unique view into the full performance of the ads evaluated.


Commercials during large, live sporting events like the Olympics are often uniquely created to leverage both the scale of the audience and the context of the event. Whether it is telling the personal story of an athlete or playing to our passions like patriotism, they are intended to strike an emotional connection, entertain us, or make us stand up and take notice.

Coca-Cola was the big winner with almost 35 percent of respondents having remembered seeing the ad when prompted – a result that outpaces typical recall rates in the 20 percent -25 percent range. Not a surprising result from a top CPG brand. Samsung, Chevy, United, and Visa rounded out the top five with respectable recall rates.

Additionally, of those respondents recalling the ad, only 40 percent could recall the specific product or service featured in the ad. The net is that only about 8 percent of viewers can recall both the brand and product in a specific advertisement. For many of the ads this was the first airing and it is reasonable to expect these numbers to improve substantially with increased exposure over the next couple of weeks.


Advertisers also want the ad to shift perceptions and create interest in the product or service featured. By surveying both viewers who saw the ad (exposed) and those who did not (unexposed), Google was able to get insights into the impact of each ad’s messaging and creative. Overall, the results were impressive. On average, respondents who saw the ads were 18 percent more positive about the associated brands than those who did not. Likewise, respondents who saw the ads were 16 percent more likely to find out more and/or purchase the product being advertised.

Interestingly, the baseline favorability and purchase intentions for both non-sponsors and Olympic sponsors are relatively equal. And for the most part, the ad’s impact on both factors was the same across non-sponsors and sponsors.


These commercials don’t just make us laugh or make us feel better about the brand – they also make us search and visit websites. Second-screen searching – whether it’s to re-engage with the ad or to learn more about the product – is a powerful indication of desire. By measuring incremental search queries on Google and YouTube during the broadcast that are specific and modeled to be attributable to ads shown, we are now able to include responses in our analysis. During the opening ceremonies, TV ad driven searches were almost exclusively on mobile – 94 percent compared to an average of 56 percent for those brands when the ads were not airing. For brands, that means a presence on the TV screen isn’t complete without a strategy for small screens, as well.

“94 percent of searches on Google and YouTube as a result of seeing the ads occurred on mobile devices.”

McDonald’s took the top spot on the podium with 42 percent more searches than the average. BMW and Samsung fought it out for second and third with 14 percent and 12 percent respectively. The answer to the question “Do emotional and inspiring ads work?” is, in this instance, “Yes.” But so do product-featured ads. Both inspiring and product ad creatives drove 10 percent more searches on average. Also, ads by sponsors drove 14 percent more searches than their non-sponsor counterparts.

Finally, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 ad was the overall winner with strong full-funnel performance placing in the top three across all three stages. Whether people are tuning into the Olympics or their favorite TV show, they use their smartphones to search for information triggered by what they’re seeing. That means if you advertise on TV, you can now get a new view of performance across each stage of the funnel – using a combination of consumer surveys and digital response, all in a matter of days. Armed with these new insights, advertisers are now able to better understand and improve the performance of these investments in concert with their digital media.


Using Google Consumer Surveys to provide consumer ad awareness and interest research, an online survey was conducted in the United States during the period Aug. 6 – Aug. 9 using a validated, representative sample with a minimum of 750 respondents. Response data is based on incremental TV ad-driven search queries (Google and YouTube) during the course of the broadcast that are specific to the ad shown and are modeled by Google Attribution 360 to be attributable to the airings of the commercials. Response data is normalized for total commercial airtime during the broadcast for each advertiser and indexed to the average.

Millennials aren’t the only generation driving awareness – think Olds ‘R’ Us

The former United Nations head demographer compared population projections of kids under the age of 15 to that of people aged 65 and over. It’s not just industrialized nations like Japan and Germany succumbing to the age wave.

What began in 1995 in a single country, Italy, will spread to 56 nations, economies as diverse as New Zealand and Georgia, by 2030. These are the findings of Joseph Chamie, who spent a quarter of a century studying population patterns at the UN in New York and now is an independent researcher.

The turning point will take place in 2020 in Cuba and South Korea, followed five years later in Thailand and the U.S. By 2075, the global population is forecast to pass the demographic milestone.

Chamie refers to this as “the jump from a Toys ‘R’ Us society to an Olds ‘R’ Us one.”

While the prospect of longer lives is a good thing, problems arise when a shrinking work force cannot foot the pension bill. Several decades ago, you could have had about 10 workers per retiree, but that could shrink to the point where in Italy, for example, you had three workers per retiree. While the political choices are unsavory – increase taxes or cut benefits – governments are running out of time to act.

You “can’t repeal the law of demographics,” Chamie said. As a result, the Boomers will continue to drive branding as much as their younger Millennial counterparts.

Tarnished Mic | Lochte’s shenanigans diminish US Olympic Gold

It’s been quite an Olympics for the U.S. – and its dominance at the Olympic podium is nothing short of golden.

However, one shameful night of debauchery from 12-time medalist Ryan Lochte and fellow teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and James Feigen, and an ill fated, fabricated robbery at a gas station definitely tarnished Team USA’s reputation.

The fallout has already begun – with Speedo, Ralph Lauren a skin care company and airwave, a mattress company dropping sponsorship like a cruise ship anchor.

To Lochte’s credit, he took “full responsibility” for the incident in Rio that landed him and three other American swimmers in hot water during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“I over-exaggerated that story,” Lochte, 32, told NBC’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview, a day after posting an apology online.

Asked why he would make up the dramatic story, Lochte said: “I don’t know why.” He added it was hours after the incident occurred and he was still intoxicated. “I’m not making me being intoxicated like an excuse, I’m not doing that at all. It was my fault and I shouldn’t have said it. And that’s why I’m taking full responsibility for it,” Lochte said. During the interview.

Lochte also apologized to the people of Rio and Brazil. The fabrication was seen by some as especially insulting considering media coverage of the city’s crime rate and pollution in the run up to the Olympic games.

Lochte began doing the right things in the aftermath of the blunder to begin to restore his reputation, that of his teammates and the celebrated country we all take such pride in. The Spin Cycle hopes Lochte takes a page from the Michael Phelps reputation repair playbook – and returns to glory in a future Olympics!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.




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