Super Bowl Ads Social Media Effect, Before and After

Traditionally, the Super Bowl has been a launching pad for new products, new companies, and new ad campaigns. But because of social media, the dust has still not settled around last Sunday’s Super Bowl ads.

Thanks to social media, advertisers got an early start – many advertisers, who usually keep their expensive commercials under wraps until game time, were running teasers for the ads, and sometimes the ads themselves, via YouTube and on Facebook, even before the game started.

As it has done for the past four years, Google’s YouTube carried the Super Bowl ads on its Ad Blitz channel,  but it upped the ante this year by adding a mobile Ad Blitz site, encouraging viewers to vote on their favorite ads immediately after the game. (The contest closes on February 14.) Another new twist is remarketing: “…if you watch an ad on YouTube, it might follow you and appear again on another Web site you visit in Google’s display ad network,” reports the New York Times. Jim Lecinski, Managing Director for U.S. Sales and Service at Google, tells the Times that Ad Blitz is “a great way for marketers to extend the shelf life” of their pricey Super Bowl ads.

Facebook joined the Super Bowl party this year with “Facebook Replay,” which showed the Super Bowl ads on its Sports on Facebook page. Twitter played a prominent role as well – Visa and the NFL collaborated to create Super Bowl-related tweets from players and sportcasters. Audi and Mercedes both used Twitter as an integrated part of marketing their Super Bowl ads.

Social Media After-Effect

Most interesting, though, has been social media’s after-effect on the Super Bowl ad parade. The chatter has been at a feverish pitch all week as ads have been rated, reviewed, praised, and critiqued. Some of the YouTube view statistics are astounding. Volkswagen’s “The Force” commercial, depicting a kid dressed as Darth Vader, has gotten close to 24 million views in a week. (It’s one of the ads that ran before the Super Bowl.) Bud Light’s “Dog Sitter” commercial has been viewed 805,000 times in 4 days.

That’s the good news. The bad news is some of the ads generated unintended negative reactions so harsh that the advertisers apologized and, in some cases, revised the ads for online distribution.

For example, HomeAway, a company that represents vacation home private rentals, was taken to task by ad critics and consumers alike for smashing an “animatronic” baby against a pane of glass in its commercial. HomeAway hastily created an alternate version of the commercial which it posted on YouTube.

Tit for Tat

Super Bowl ads are sometimes destined for controversy and that’s not always a bad thing. GoDaddy has been famous (or infamous, some would say) for its racy ads on past Super Bowls, and this year was no different – GoDaddy paraded around Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels in an ad that suggested but didn’t show nudity. It led Network Solutions to counter with its own parody starring Cloris Leachman which was largely well received. Ironically GoDaddy pulled a fast one with a Super Bowl ad with Joan Rivers which critics saw as a one note gag that got Joan Rivers more attention than GoDaddy.

Whether you liked GoDaddy’s tactic of pasting Joan Rivers’ face on a model’s body or not with high stakes placements like the Super Bowl what matters is the results. According to GoDaddy, 15 minutes after its first Super Bowl commercial aired, its domain name registrations rose by more than 466 per cent compared with last year. If that is the case then the gambit paid off in the short term.

Groupon’s Big Mistake

Perhaps most egregiously controversial, however, were the three ads by Groupon which attempted to be some kind of weird spoof on celebrities supporting worthy causes. Fanning the flames of controversy was the ad focused on Tibet. It begins with what appears to be an appeal to help the people of Tibet. Actor Timothy Hutton, says, “The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy… but they still whip up an amazing fish curry…” Hutton then proceeds to describe a Groupon offer about a Himalayan restaurant. As a former ad agency executive, all I can say is, “What the hell were they thinking?”

According to Brand Bowl 2011, which rated and ranked the Super Bowl ads based on public reaction from about 303,000 tweets, the Tibet ad was dead last in “Sentiment.”

Of even more significance were the widely reported reactions to the ad by media analysts and consumers; in fact, the Twittersphere was raging with vitriol. The beleaguered Groupon CEO, Andrew Mason, was pummeled by the press to the point where he wrote on the company’s blog on February 7, “I’ve been spending the day listening to the negative feedback about our Tibet Super Bowl commercial…” He closed the blog by saying, “The last thing we wanted was to offend our customers – it’s bad business and it’s not where our hearts are.” The negative impression of the campaign is said to be so severe that some reports have surfaced suggesting the controversy will actually cause a delay in Groupon’s IPO.

Groupon’s advertising misstep may be a good lesson to successful online companies whose egos get the best of them. It’s ironic that a company built on a social media platform has seen the power of social media almost bring it to its knees.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.

One Response to Super Bowl Ads Social Media Effect, Before and After

  1. Barry Silverstein says:

    Here’s an update: Groupon has announced it is withdrawing its controversial SuperBowl commercials. What a big public relations mess for a company that seemed on the upswing. Read more here: