Super Bowl-Sized Internet Opportunities

Since I’m not a football fan, I have to study up after the Super Bowl so I can participate in informed water-cooler conversations about the ads (you thought I was going to say “game,” didn’t you?). According to ABC, the Super Bowl drew roughly 91 million television viewers this year and roughly 141 million viewers for the end of the game, making it the most-watched NFL game in a decade.

Impressive! After the game, I scanned the ads on Google seeking the creative that cut through. Surprisingly, a good number of ads didn’t have a Web tie-in, although every single Super Bowl advertiser has a Web presence. It seems like a big missed opportunity, particularly for brands that market considered purchases for which shoppers conduct online research before making their purchase decision.

I asked two colleagues to review all the spots and tally up those that mention or show a URL and those that don’t. The results were as I expected: about 40 percent of the spots don’t include URLs. That’s a big number. What do those advertisers miss out on?

A recent ClickZ article helps quantify the missed opportunity. By linking high-exposure TV commercials (no pun intended) with an Internet pay-off or multichannel connection, relatively unknown brands such as GoDaddy had big increases in Web traffic. According to the article:

The controversial domain registrar GoDaddy.com sent viewers directly to the Web after each of its commercial’s two airings. It first aired one alone in the first half of the game, immediately raising site traffic 991 percent, according to data released by comScore. The same commercial aired again in the second half of the game, sending site traffic levels up 1,148 percent.

According to comScore, GoDaddy created the biggest Web splash, beating out larger brands that had bought as much as five times the airtime. The GoDaddy spot featured a near “wardrobe malfunction.” To see whether the “wardrobe malfunction” actually occurred, viewers had to visit GoDaddy.com. There’s a direct call to action. The site also features spots the network rejected and the storyboards behind them.

In contrast, the Cadillac Escalade spot didn’t have a Web tie-in or URL. That surprised me. Depending on whose numbers you use, about 70 percent of auto buyers go online before they visit a dealer. The Web must be a central element of any auto campaign. The Cadillac spot tied the vehicle to a highly stylized fashion show then unveiled the new Escalade at the end. There’s no URL or any call to action in the spot. According to comScore, the Cadillac site’s traffic increased over 250 percent on game day.

This raises some important questions: When is it appropriate for a TV commercial to have a clear connection to the Web? In what circumstances wouldn’t you want or need to bring the audience into a Web experience?

  • When you must: If you market a highly considered purchase (vehicles, computer equipment, online services, etc.) that’s been proven people spend more time consuming Internet content about the purchase than they spend consuming that content in any other medium, it’s criminal not to make the Web central to your campaign. GoDaddy obviously went this route.

  • When you should: If you market a considered purchase that’s been proven people spend a fair amount of time on the Internet at some point in the consideration cycle (wireless services, some financial services), make the Web part of the campaign. Include it in all advertising, whether it’s about brand building, selling something, or driving traffic at retail. It just makes sense.
  • When you can: If you market a well-known and widely available consumer product (e.g., such as beer, snacks, or candy), you can go either way, although I’d recommend a Web tie-in much of the time.

If marketers can more broadly build the Web into their campaigns, the benefit will be significant and easily measured. Problem is, many :30s are just fleeting impressions. If the creative is superlative the impression lasts, becomes viral, gets talked about, and has clear value. If not, it’s just a fleeting impression. Smart markers aim for experiences with great impact. That can only happen if campaigns are more experiential, and that inevitably leads to the Web. We’ll soon see what marketers have in store for the Academy Awards (second only to the Super Bowl in viewership and cost).

What do you think? Let me know. To view a full list of the Super Bowl commercials and their associated URLs, check out my company’s blog.

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