The Super Bowl and the Second Screen

by Jeremy Hodge on February 6, 2012

In the days leading up to yesterday’s Super Bowl, there were a lot of articles and blog posts talking about how the commercials would incorporate the “second screen” and have more social media integration than ever before. Unfortunately, the results were nothing spectacular. The most common form of the “second screen” was putting a hashtag at the end of an ad. Out of the eight or so commercials that featured hashtags, only GE (#whatworks), H&M (#beckhamforhm) and Audi (#solongvampires) were actually engaged with those hashtags during the game. Other companies who didn’t feature hashtags were still responding to fans of their commercials on Twitter including Kia and Chevrolet. It’s nothing extraordinary, but at least a few of these companies are actually using Twitter as an engagement platform during an high exposure event like the Super Bowl, rather than just re-syndicating links to their commercials.

Outside of social integration, GoDaddy managed to slap a QR code onto one of its ads. I’m not a fan of QR codes, but according to a GoDaddy press release the company set “all-time sales record for (their) mobile site,” had record breaking traffic to their mobile website, and even broke its own records for sales on a Super Bowl Sunday. That’s quite a lot of record breaking, and even though I hate the GoDaddy ads (I think they’re cheesy and misogynistic), they do deserve some credit for pulling in that kind of traffic through a simple QR code placement.

While there was nothing terribly exciting in terms of social/mobile integration with the Super Bowl ads, there is one thing that should not be overlooked; how the creation and distribution of the ads are influenced by the web. Jeff Bercovici at Forbes wrote an interesting piece called “How the Internet Ruined This Year’s Super Bowl Commercials.” Jeff argues that the web has changed (for the worst) the way Super Bowl commercials are produced, in the following  ways:

  • Companies are releasing their ads prior to the super bowl to generate buzz, which kills the element of  surprise
  • The commercials are designed to be viral and shared, rather than just memorable
  • Long form versions of the ads are created for the web which are then trimmed down for the 30 second (and much weaker) TV spots

I understand where Jeff is coming from, but I don’t think that these points are necessarily weaknesses. What’s wrong with having the web be the primary source for viewing them and being able to watch before the game? And why does “designing an ad to be shared” make it bad?

Perhaps the commercials this year weren’t the best, but blaming it on the web is an easy scapegoat.  The web allows for more possibilities and structures than was ever possible. There’s a real opportunity for advertisers to get creative and make  commercials that incorporate the “second screen” idea. Rather than just creating commercials, advertisers can create full blown experiences that span TV, the web and mobile. We may not see Super Bowl commercials that adhere to the status quo, but does anyone really want to see that? Perhaps I’m missing something because I don’t watch football ;)

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