Marketers spend a lot of money on the Super Bowl. I didn’t even pull stats on the amount of money spent on Super Bowl commercials, because the numbers are staggeringly large [Editor’s Note: estimated $359 million]. You can easily understand the appeal of the splash of a Super Bowl commercial and the 114 million viewers in the US alone. Add in the additional PR mentions and online traffic generated, and maybe you can make a case for spending all of that money. The jury is still out on that one.
However, after the Super Bowl, we asked the question: just how ready were Super Bowl brands for the online engagement that comes with their commercials?
When you spend millions on a commercial, you need to make sure that you’ve done everything in your power to capitalize on the opportunity. That means making sure your web properties — from your site to your YouTube channel to your social properties — are ready and optimized for the millions of people searching for content related to your Super Bowl commercial.
Do you have custom landing pages ready to attract traffic? Do you have specific call-to-actions on your external priorities (Facebook pages, YouTube channel) to drive traffic to your site or to specific conversion events?
We looked at the top 5 commercials as measured by digital activity. This included ads from marketing giants Budweiser, Coca Cola, McDonalds, T Mobile, and Always (a P&G brand). We then took a look at how they performed when we searched for 4 keywords related to their commercial, which included:
- [Brand Name] super bowl commercial
- [Brand Name] commercial
- [Brand Name] super bowl
- [Tagline from the spot] commercial
We then looked at both the performance of the brand as well as what they had done to make sure their page was ready. Did they have Super Bowl specific content on their site? If the top result is a YouTube video, is it on their channel? Do they have any calls-to-action in the description or video of the YouTube?
Note: the results on such high search volume, highly time sensitive keywords are very volatile. So while they aren’t a perfectly precise account of everyone searching for these keywords, it is a good directional sense of each brand’s performance.
1. Coca Cola: Big Game
- Coca Cola super bowl commercial: 5th overall result (last year’s video!)
- Coca Cola commercial: 1st result (last year’s video), 2nd result direct link to YouTube channel
- Coca Cola super bowl: 6th result (last year’s video)
- Make it Happy commercial: 2nd result (finally this year’s video!)
So Coca Cola had an interesting problem – their digital presence wasn’t being consumed by media outlets or their competitors, but their own content from last year! Good problem to have when you can run Super Bowl commercials year after year, but it is actually an issue when people are looking for your spot on cyber bullying and find your 2014 commercial about multiculturalism instead.
The campaign took an interesting turn when their automated ‘Make it Happy’ twitter feed started tweeting Hitler’s Mein Kampf, but that’s a whole other issue. Coke didn’t have any content on their site around the Super Bowl commercial, but they did have a strong following on social around the campaign. Overall, it wasn’t particularly easy to find the right content, and while the Facebook engagement was a plus, we weren’t wowed by the calls to action on this campaign.
2. T-Mobile: Kim’s Data Stash
- T Mobile super bowl commercial: Did not appear on first page
- T Mobile commercial: Top two video results and 9th result overall
- T Mobile super bowl: Not on first page
- Kim’s Data Stash commercial: Top video result
Well, we can’t fault T-Mobile for lack of effort in prepping their digital presence, but their execution left little to be desired. They came up with two different pages, the first introduces “Data Stash” (complete with a massive picture of Kim Kardashian on it). The second was a dedicated domain kimsdatastash.com.
The Data Stash page made almost no mention of Kim within the body of content with the exception of a short link to the YouTube video. kimsdatastash.com used the page title “#KimsDataStash,” which is once again probably not what people are actually searching for. Even the search “Kim’s data stash” has their dedicated domain coming up outside the top 3. Not to mention, the headline provides enough real estate to use “Kim’s Data Stash|Join the Conversation #kimsdatastash.”
On the YouTube side, things aren’t great; the end of the commercial has a specific call-to-action visit kimsdatastash.com, but they didn’t even bother making that a link in the video. They do have a link above the fold in the description though. Overall their performance reflected the lack of a consistent strategy.
3. Always (P&G): Like a Girl
- Always super bowl commercial: Did not appear on first page of Google
- Always commercial: Top video result & 7th position overall
- Always super bowl: Did not appear on first page
- Like a girl commercial: Top video result
Always is a great example of a company that had all of the right parts, but didn’t have someone constantly asking the question “how will this content get found?” They created a great commercial (at least in our opinion) with a strong and emotional message that clearly resonate with their audience. They built a great landing page for the initiative at http://www.always.com/en-us/likeagirl.aspx.
Always also put in some great effort on the YouTube side. They were the only company that actually put links directly into their YouTube video; and while we would have loved to see the link to the landing page above the fold in the video description, it was still a good effort.
But if they had all the ingredients, how did their performance go so wrong? A quick glance at the “Like a Girl” landing page reveals this title: “Puberty in Girls|Self confidence|Always.” Our intent here was not to get into granular SEO tactics, but you have literally millions of people searching for terms related to “Like a Girl” and it wasn’t even included in the page title.
It’s in the URL of the page and maybe they argued that the page is targeted at questions about “puberty in girls” or “self confidence in girls” – but even so, it seems like a pretty major miss in the “how-do-we-make-sure-our-content-gets-found-when-we-just-spent-millions-on-advertising” department. The title of their YouTube video was similarly problematic: “Always #LikeAGirl” is nice for the twitter tie-in, but when the viral video first dropped last summer, 3x more people searched for “like a girl” then “#likeagirl.” Use titles that people look for!
4. McDonalds: Pay with Lovin’
- McDonalds super bowl commercial: Top result (video)
- McDonalds commercial: 4th result (video)
- McDonalds super bowl: 1st result (video)
- Pay with lovin commercial: 1st result (video)
Purely from a visibility perspective, McDonalds took home the gold. They performed well across all different searches. The homepage of their site had a massive embedded YouTube video. The video itself has no call-to-action either on YouTube or embedded on McDonalds.com and the YouTube description just has a link to McDonalds.com. Why? So you can watch the video again but just embedded this time?
The homepage offers the call-to-action of “Join us on Tumblr” and then “Be part of the movement” with Twitter and Instagram links that are inexplicably not actually links (only Tumblr’s is).
While we had to give them credit for their performance on Google, they really didn’t put a particularly strong effort into actually driving engagement with all of the traffic they received.
5. Budweiser: Lost Dog
- Budweiser super bowl commercial: Positions 4-5 (video results) & 8th (Budweiser site)
- Budweiser commercial: Top video result, 5th result, 9th result
- Budweiser super bowl: 2nd result (video)
- Lost dog commercial: 3rd result (video)
This was another interesting case. Budweiser ran multiple spots for the Super Bowl, including a controversial (at least among some beer enthusiasts) ad mocking pretentious microbrew drinkers, and a completely separate campaign for Bud Light. They dedicated the entire area above the fold on their homepage to their Super Bowl ads, and made a strong effort to push users to social media.
Their YouTube presence wasn’t fantastic: no links at the end of their videos and no call-to-action above the fold. The first call-to-action below the fold is to go to iTunes and download the song that played during the commercial — that’s nice of them… but does that help sell beer?
The clear message from both Coca Cola and Budweiser was that they prized social engagement over all other forms. Their site traffic largely served to drive social, not the other way around. If that was their strategy, we can’t fault them on it too much; but we still get the feeling that there wasn’t a centralized effort to direct their audience to specific outcomes.
Conclusion: Lessons Learned From Super Bowl Marketing
Overall, here at Conductor we strongly believe that most of these brands missed in some way when planning for all of the traffic that comes with running a Super Bowl commercial. Regardless of whether or not your organization runs Super Bowl commercials (at Conductor, we certainly don’t), there are a few key areas to think about when you run a large scale marketing or viral video campaign:
- How are people going to find my content when they look for it?
- Where do I want to direct them once they are engaging with my content?
- What is the Call-to-Action for each channel on which they might engage with my content?
Exactly how to answer these questions depends on your brand and your goals, but no one should spend millions of marketing dollars without first answering each of these.