Super Bowl XLVIII: Lessons Learned from Last Year’s Coca-Cola Fail


ADOTAS – Last year, experts warned brands planning to advertise in the Super Bowl that they need to be prepared for traffic spikes to their websites, especially after airing interactive ads. Unfortunately, Coca Cola did not heed the advice, which created frustration with a mobile website that simply would not load for hours.

To be fair, Coca Cola’s advertising team had the right idea for Super Bowl advertising: hook users in their TV ads, and then drive them to a Coke-sponsored mobile website to continue the conversation. There are lessons to be learned from Coca Cola’s mistakes during last year’s Super Bowl, but there are also key takeaways about what Coke did right.

What Coca-Cola Did Well

A decade ago, advertisers were less concerned with their ability to immediately engage with consumers as they are today. Back then, the ultimate goal was to drive sales and support the bottom line. While this is still true today, another goal is to engage audiences in real-time through their social networks. Users often begin commenting on their favorite (or least favorite) Super Bowl commercials before the ad has even finished. To deliver effective ads in the age of immediacy, advertisers need to create truly engaging and interactive ads, driving viewers to take immediate action – whether it’s Tweeting, taking a poll, visiting a website, entering a contest, using a hashtag, Liking a Facebook page, posting to Pinterest – and the list goes on.

Coca Cola had every intention of engaging this real-time audience. Advertisers this year should take note of those efforts. In fact, Coca Cola’s ad was a success in driving users to take immediate action – it simply wasn’t prepared for exactly how successful it would be. Last year’s Super Bowl ad for Coke portrayed a race between several different groups of people, asking viewers to decide the winner by taking a poll online. Most users visited the site via their mobile device, instead of running to a computer in the middle of the game. Coke successfully engaged their users in the content and most importantly, got them invested in the outcome. Had users been able to access the mobile site, we likely would have witnessed one of the most successfully interactive commercials that aired in last year’s Super Bowl. But as most of us know, that simply wasn’t the case.

What Coke Did Wrong

If you’re going to drive consumers to a specific website during one of the most-watched prime time events of the year, make sure the website can handle the increased attention – potentially millions of users within seconds. Unfortunately, Coke did not have the mobile infrastructure in place to support its mobile and social efforts. As a result, millions of people couldn’t access the site. What started as a very successful and engaging Super Bowl campaign turned into a frustrating consumer experience. The lesson? Even just a few seconds of delay in load time can cause advertisers to lose their audience’s attention. This Super Bowl, brands need to be prepared for traffic spikes by dynamically delivering content on their traditional and mobile online destinations.

In today’s mobile world, dynamic delivery isn’t an option for Super Bowl advertisers – it’s a requirement.  Understand how your content is being delivered and received on both desktops and mobile devices. Distinguish the type of mobile device and be prepared to deliver the supported content (i.e. Flash ads, HTML 5, etc.) based on that device. Delivering content that is dynamically updated in real-time so that it is specific to the endpoint type can help brands avoid slow load times and keep users engaged.

During Super Bowl XLVIII, successful ads will be the ones that reel consumers in during TV ads, but prompt them to “find out what happens next” by visiting their website, downloading a mobile application, “Liking” a Facebook page, Tweeting, etc. Engaging with viewers by driving them to mobile and social channels can have an incredibly positive impact on the success of Super Bowl advertisements, but it also puts strain on websites by quickly generating traffic spikes. Learn from Coke’s mistakes and its successes. Make sure you have the resources in place to support social and mobile-minded consumers and avoid latency problems and downtime. As little as 10 seconds of downtime could cause end-user frustration and result in your prospect taking their business elsewhere.


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