It’s Super Bowl time. For me this mostly means Augusta (and Spring!) is just around the corner. But the football is always watchable and, as everyone knows, it’s as much all about the half-time show and of course the ads – which I believe for Super Bowl XLIV cost more that $2.5m for a 30-second slot.
Anyway, all this reminds me to share one of the profiling tools that I use with MBA admissions clients when required. The issue is always the same: to get an applicant to identify their core message, focus it sharply, and tell it in a compelling way.
So I tell applicants: ‘craft your own Super Bowl ad.’ If you were given the opportunity to advertise yourself in a 30-second slot on TV, what would you do and say? Let’s say Adcom members from HBS or Wharton or whichever is your dream b-school are watching. How would your ad go? What would it say? Remember it is appearing in ultra-competitive company, with other ads that are funny and wicked and purposeful and memorable in various ways. So how would yours stand out?
The time limit forces a focus on what’s essential, and the advertisement format demands an ‘angle,’ a point of unique interest. You wouldn’t just go ‘my name is Sam and I was born in Reno, and blah, blah, blah.’
I ask MBA applicants to ‘storyboard’ it as if it were a real advertisement (it doesn’t take long, it’s only a 30-second slot after all.) Start with the first image, then the next. What is happening onscreen? What music is playing (why?), is there a voiceover and what is it saying, what text is on the screen? And so on, moving through the ad to its close.
You have seconds to pitch yourself. It’s costing you a fortune to be there so you can’t waste a word. You don’t need to (you could never) capture everything important about yourself. But you must capture and entice the viewers, and leave them with some unforgettable images and a message sandblasted on their brain.
Then if you can transfer the essence of your Super Bowl ad to your MBA essays and interviews (elaborating stories, and adding proof) your communication will pack the punch it needs.