Super Bowl Ads: A Mobile Analysis

Dave LawsonRecently, I posted some commentary stemming from some analysis of last year’s über-expensive ad spots and their majority lack of mobile options to extend consumer-brand engagement. I also pointed out that not having an on-brand, relevant destination for them would seem to me to be ROI suicide – that 23 of 27 brands with ads in last year’s mix had nothing for me on mobile.

No doubt, if you care about advertising and marketing, you’ve read some amazingly in-depth reviews of the high-dollar advertising efforts of brands that sought to take “ad-vantage” of the 45th Super Bowl.

It was great to see such an exciting game, and I admit to working overtime during every commercial break.

Let me set the stage: I watched the ads on an HD plasma television in the comfort of my own home with little to no distraction (“Honey, I’m working” rarely has ever felt so sweet to say). Additionally, I fired up my PC, an Android 2.2.1 OS Droid X on Verizon’s now iPhone deluged 3G network and a pretty close to stock iPad on a AT&T U-Verse alleged to be running at 12 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up. The PC was for simple fact-checking and Google searches if I couldn’t immediately connect. Ultimately, I ended up not involving the PC in anything but following #brandbowl twitter updates. Note that in no way am I trying to judge an effort based on its actual goals and merits as they pertain to the brand or agency’s overarching plan – it’s just a mobile consumer’s observation.

Be sure to check out all of the ads here.

When I saw a commercial, I focused on these two questions:

  1. Was there an integrated attempt at a call to action (mobile, social, other – with a focus on mobile for me)?
  2. If there was or wasn’t, would I easily be able to find more info on any of the devices beyond that initial airing of the ad?

After this year’s Super Bowl, I would imagine that ROI is feeling pretty good about itself right now – at least in terms of the ability to be tracked. Of the 30 or so pre-announced, pre-scheduled “big deal” commercials, the vast majority were accessible (in some reasonable form or another) via mobile device. Most were also integrated into a social media (Twitter or Facebook) conduit as well. Additionally, there were some stellar examples of purposeful, relevant destinations that acknowledged people hitting those digital destinations during game-time, following up on what they just saw.

And now, for a breakdown of the ads:

The All-Pros (Best all around, could build a championship team around them):

Bridgestone: Good, entertaining commercials that delivered across devices and OS. Not only did they have a Super Bowl-specific URL extension, they also had links from their main page to consume Super Bowl-related content. A nice mobile-optimized experience that primarily allowed me to find a dealer location or find what tires are right for my vehicle was my reward, but I could also share the commercial and view it again. Social tie-ins and activation.

HomeAway: An interesting commercial that I had a tough time following, but when I needed more info, it was available to me on any of the devices I tried and there were lots of options to satisfy any of my curiosity. Social tie-ins and activation. Not sure Wil.I.Am is ever going to show up in my Salesforce database, but for taking me from “What?” to “I get it,” Salesforce did an admirable job across all devices. Video played well on all and data capture was obvious and easy. “I’m a be” social tie-ins and activation.

Honorable mention: Best Buy, CareerBuilder,

The Mid-Round Draft Picks (Some good, some not-so-good can make the big play, but might also be prone to turn-overs)

Groupon: Of anyone, they should probably “get” integrated marketing. Their destinations were rich and immediately prompted me to localize for more relevancy and useful interactions. Made this list more for their “faux cause marketing” entry than anything (this is as political as I get, soapbox now available for rent).

CarMax: Notably competing for mindshare amongst auto brands and with, the first spot of two was less than optimal. I couldn’t find relevant destinations that would load without major wait time on any devices, didn’t see anything as far as social calls to action. Redemption comes with their second spot the URL extension “make history.” This changes everything – faster load speeds, better info, a touch-screen experience that is interesting and unique. The parts were there, Joe Consumer just needed that additional frequency to find it.

Teleflora: I get innuendo and I dig a country music star, but the commercial for me was just OK. The findable destinations were a clear indication of where prioritization occurred for them. The mobile website, honestly, was a disaster. A very 2005 experience that was off-putting from the get-go given what I expected of their brand after investing in this spot. On the other hand, the iPad experience was actually beautiful. On-brand, on experience, references to the spot, the game, and other things that matter.

Honorable Mentions: Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Kia, Chrysler

The Practice Squad (Subject to my evaluation protocol, they might want to concentrate on their studies and consider other options) premise of the commercial was … … … That about covers it. Interaction is highly video driven and it didn’t work on the iPad (for flash reasons) and streamed with multiple buffers on the phone for a disjointed weird video. As I said, I’m not guessing at actual goals, here but I just didn’t get the sense that anything productive happened here today for them… or for me.

Snickers: This kills me. I love the brand family, I love the product, I love the commercials but (similar to last year) the experience was driving me to a flash site that fails on the iPad and that isn’t enjoyable on the flash-capable phone. I want to love you, its just…

Those are a few of the highlights from my analysis. Agree or disagree, I think the overwhelming adoption of both social and mobile channels really speaks to brands understanding that multi-channel consumerism is truly what will separate those that “survive” from those that “thrive” in the coming years. A big question that I have is this: If there isn’t an easy way to leverage the interactions gained across display, mobile web, SMS, email, wired web and other direct means, what will everyone do until Super Bowl 46 to grow their business?


  1. Mike
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    I too was keeping track of the Super Bowl commercials yesterday, but I was using my iPhone vs. a laptop. This is probably more in line with what the masses would be doing. The big winner on Mobile Search yesterday was Chevrolet, which I detailed in this blog post:

    Interested how this looks next year at this time as I imagine mobile search literacy will grow by leaps and bounds in 2011.

    • Posted February 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely Mike- that was one thing that I didn’t have time to do was go to an engine and analyze search results. Refinement of strategies there on the brand side will pay huge dividends for those who get good at it fast. Thanks for the comment- great point.

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