Super Bowl LI: Enter the Age of Digital Ads and Real-Time Experiences


superbowl-digital-real-timeThe Super Bowl has always been a prime window for advertisers. More than 100 million pairs of eyeballs have been glued to the game each year across broadcast and digital channels, with the coveted 18-to-34 demographic increasingly moving toward digital viewing.

While we don’t yet know the number of people who watched Super Bowl LI via a desktop or mobile device, we do know that 3.96 million unique visitors did so in 2016 – a 58 percent increase over the 2015 numbers. As more consumers shift to digital channels, the advertising possibilities open up far wider than they ever did with broadcast alone.

What does this mean? Digital transformation is underway and being supported more broadly in the mainstream, as more advertisers were able to participate with digital only investments in Super Bowl advertising. Fox led the way, ensuring advertisers could invest in online ads instead of traditional broadcast ads. The cost was $700,000 for a 30 second spot online, versus $5 million for the broadcast in traditional TV channel. Even our Super Bowl squares are now digitized. Here are some examples of ads that had a digital or a cross-over approach:

  • Budweiser’s ‘Born the Hard Way’ ad accumulated the most online video views as of the morning after the game. The ad told the story of immigration to America and a dramatization of the early establishment of Anheuser and Busch partnerships spawning Budweiser.
  • Ford Motor Company’s advertisement told a story about people getting stuck in various situations and how the company’s products helped them “go further,” linking digital viewers directly to a dedicated web page for the company’s new slogan and offering avenues to connect with the company on social.
  • Snickers “attempted” to do a live commercial during the third quarter of the game, only to have Adam Driver show up and ruin the whole thing because he was hungry. Turns out that was the commercial, and the brand took to social to apologize for the “mishap” that Driver caused. Snickers carried the theme through the rest of the night, going so far as to congratulate the winning Patriots for eating their Snickers bars.
  • Verizon Wireless took to rebutting the claims of its competitors in real-time via its Twitter account, essentially “trolling” T-Mobile and Sprint while also interacting with consumers in real-time. Verizon didn’t air a commercial during the game, but T-Mobile aired one featuring a send-up of 50 Shades of Grey that equated being on Verizon to BDSM. Verizon’s response sparked a small Twitter war between the brands.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that the digital advertising ecosystem now allows brands to more easily run tests to different segments, create more targeted experiences, and adapt content based on real-time activities. Where real-time marketing was once little more than being responsive on social media, the era of big data has presented enormous opportunities for brands of all sizes to take advantage of the new digital ecosystem.

Oreo’s timely tweet from Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 was a landmark event in real-time marketing, but ‘newsjacking’ like that – and the more recent social media “win” from JCPenney over Beyonce’s pregnancy photo – are not the only examples of the power inherent in how brands can leverage the new real-time digital ecosystem.

Real-time marketing has grown up beyond timely and clever social media activity to immersive online ad experiences. Back in December, we predicted real-time marketing having a bigger impact in 2017. Real-time marketing will evolve into full enterprise customer engagement, and in order to make this happen marketers need to take advantage of data science, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning tools such as models, scorecards, or predictive analytics. They need to look at merging together the worlds of ad tech and martech for more targeted and impactful customer journeys. They need to play the numbers game to determine what audiences, segments, or individuals are most likely to respond to and ensure an ongoing feedback loop drives future decisions.

We are just getting started on this digital transformation journey and there’s a good chance the ad experiences for Super Bowls to come will be vastly different than those of today.


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