by Robert van Alstyne
Although the Super Bowl is always the biggest moment of the year in the American advertising industry, this year’s spots were largely lacking in memorable sizzle (particularly since so many brands opted to serve them up online in advance of game day). Sure, cleverly comedic spots from Samsung and Audi hit their mark, and a fiery up-with-farmers message from Ram Trucks got people talking, but the real excitement happened online and in real time.
When half the stadium lights unexpectedly cut out in New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the result was a lengthy delay — and a boon for fast-acting brands, who used the blackout as a backdrop for clever Twitter marketing. Over the course of the 34-minute delay, branded tweets ranged from Tide’s cheekily touting its stain-removing power (“We can’t get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out. #SuperBowl #TidePower”) to PBS’s saucily suggesting another viewing option (“This might be a good time think about alternative programming. #SuperBowlBlackOut #WeHaveDowntonPBS”).
The crème de la crème of the blackout quips was Oreo’s. Just minutes after the power went out, the brand tweeted “Power out? No problem” and posted a photo of an Oreo with the tagline “You can still dunk in the dark.” The bit of instantaneous social-media marketing went viral fast, to the tune of more than 15,000 retweets.
Formal Super Bowl spots will always require serious scratch, but brands can still win consumers’ attention with a timely one-liner for a fraction of the cost. Marketers intent on making waves during live events must ensure that their social-media teams are properly set to pounce when unexpected and noteworthy events occur. Just be sure there’s some considered thought before hitting send, as brands that are overly eager to insert themselves into the news have seen their efforts backfire (see: Gap and American Apparel’s disastrous Hurricane Sandy outreach).