Covering the Digital Buy: Super Bowl Winners and Losers


ADOTAS – Last year, when I blogged about the 2011 Super Bowl Commercials, I thought it was a fresh take on one of the biggest days for brand advertisers at the time. However, while the digital world continues to evolve at breakneck speed, many of the big brands seem to still be missing many of the basics around: 1. covering their digital buys; 2. leveraging the multi-screen experience; and 3. building your audience. These actions were basic best practices that I kept in mind as I sat at the judges’ table with so many other Americans watching 2012 Super Bowl commercials.

Cover Your Digital Buy: Winners

As expected, mobile assets have undergone a dramatic makeover in the past year. There were few examples of advertisers’ sites that were not optimized for mobile or tablets, which is a big shift from last year. Many more advertisers than last year also spent the money to cover their search traffic.

  1. Automotive companies did the best overall.
    1. Chevrolet – The 2011 Biggest Winner did it again.
    2. Chrysler – Most talked about ad, and covered their buy.
    3. VW – One of the funniest commercials, and covered their buy.
    4. Audi, Lexus, BMW and Hyundai – All succeeded in covering their buy.
    5. TaxAct – Surprisingly, they bought a television commercial and not only covered their buy, but appeared on many other brand terms, including Doritos (since they did not buy their brand). They were a great example of one brand poaching another company’s weakness to cover their own branded terms.
    6. – They bought their own commercial, successfully drafted off the other brands and bought strategically.

The winners in the automotive category made the smart move to consume multiple positions with search ads. As you can see below, Chrysler buys out their brand term in position one, links to YouTube channel to re-watch the commercial in position two, and then links to dealers in position three.

A few of the other car companies linked to geotargeted dealers in positions two and three, which was also a clever move.

Cover Your Digital Buy: Losers

Several advertisers did not spend the short money to buy even their brand terms on Google. The list is a who’s who in the big world of brands that failed this year:

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. Budweiser
  3. Doritos (Pepsi)
  4. Pepsi, which bid, but not high enough to be displayed at top of page
  5. Movies including Battleship and The Avengers
  6. Old Navy not buying Corporado, the faux brand featured in their commercial
  7. Beckham and H&M
  8. Oikos – yes, the Greek yogurt company
  9. Carl’s Jr.
  10. Jack in the Box
  11. Bud Light (bought Bud Light Platinum, but not their brand term)
  12. Career Builder

Again, brands are spending at least $2 million for the spot, and buying the companion ads on search for even a few hours cannot cost more than $25,000. Another trend was many brands did not cover the product name. So Cadillac had an ad on their brand, but not on Cadillac ATS, which was the product promoted in their Super Bowl commercial. This adds up to failure.

Cover Your Digital Buy – Biggest Loser: Infiniti

I saved the worst for last, and it needs a special mention. Copy editors take note: While Infiniti covered their branded search terms, they used a bad URL, so consumers clicking on their search term went to a dead page.

Leveraging Multi-screen Experience

As a judge, I can’t give a trophy to companies that just showed up, but there were really no winners in this category. There were many attempts at extending the television viewing experience onto a second screen, but advertisers are still simply not getting it. Advertisers must create compelling content that extends beyond TV, leveraging an engagement model in which consumers bond with and advocate for their brands. For me – and most consumers I know – to entice me to stop watching football and grabbing snacks, the experience has to be compelling. Few advertisers did more than provide a URL — I only saw nine hashtags and eight mentions of Facebook. This year there really were not any clear cut winners, but these companies tried:

  1. GoDaddy – they at least give us a reason to go to their site; however, we all know how this story ends, so not that compelling.
  2. Pepsi – they did integration with Shazam, but I’m still not convinced that this is the best application to integrate the screens. I tried a few times, but in a crowded room it’s impossible to make everyone stop talking while one Shazams an ad.
  3. Chevrolet – The ad didn’t drive me to their site, but I went out of curiosity, where there were some cool YouTube assets.

Building Your Audience

Again, here there were few if any clear winners. Most big brands are just trying to increase awareness, but the beauty of digital marketing is the ability to build an audience. When you want to create some buzz or awareness around a new product, digital marketing campaigns have already collected an audience to target. Based on this concept, advertisers could have used these tactics to get more digital bang for their big bucks:

  1. Drive Facebook fans – why not make the call to action to “like us on Facebook”? If the spend is $2 million and that call to action adds 200,000 fans, there is a clear and measurable data point. Then when the brand is ready to follow up with a promotion, there is a built-in audience.
  2. Re-marketing pool – another easy win is to drive consumers to your site for a giveaway. Yes, this old trick still works. Collect email addresses, and by simply placing a re-marketing pixel on the site, brands can now re-market to this audience via targeted display ads. For companies like Pepsi that own so many brands, this would be a natural fit.

So there you have it: another great game under our belts, Eli now has more Super Bowl titles than his more famous brother, and the digital world continues to evolve. I truly believe that next year a few advertisers will crack the multi-screen angle and we will see all of our digital devices starting to work in concert.


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