The sudden third-quarter blackout at Sunday’s Super Bowl has been one of the most talked about, and tweeted about, topics of the week. The unexpected event delayed the game, arguably broke some of the players’ momentum and compromised the possibility of some of the commercials running.
As I sat and watched the cameras cut back and forth between the announcers rambling and the cheerleaders entertaining the anxious crowd, I wondered why there weren’t commercials playing. Why wouldn’t CBS sell extra spots that could be run in the event of a disaster such as the blackout?
While I was wondering this to myself, some companies were quickly acting to take advantage of the event in a different way- on social media sites. Bud Light and Speed Stick bid on promoted tweets pegged to the term “power outage,” so people who searched for that phrase saw their tweets.
Other brands went a more direct route; Oreo posted a graphic with the text “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” The cookie brand’s digital agency, 360i was set up to monitor the game closely; decisions were made in real time quickly by marketers and agency members sitting at a sort of “mission control” center at the agency’s headquarters. Among those there were two brand team members from Oreo, approximately a dozen creatives, strategists, community managers and social media monitors. The Oreo graphic was “designed, captioned, and approved within minutes,” according to Sarah Hofstetter, president of 360i.
Audi, Tide, and Volkswagen were some other brands to also make the best of the event. Audi used the opportunity to take a jab at Mercedes-Benz with the tweet, “Sending some LEDs to the @MBUSA Superdome right now…” while Tide ran a tweet and graphic with the caption, “We can’t get your #blackout but we can get your stains out.”
When the game resumed, so did the commercials. Some companies, such as Coca-Cola, were less concerned about the effect the blackout might have on ratings and more worried about keeping ad efforts trending. Prior to the blackout, its “Mirage” ad, identified by the hashtag #CokeChase was trending nationally.
The idea behind “Mirage” was a desert race among showgirls, cowboys and badlanders all chasing a bottle of Coke. Consumers were asked to vote online for a team and “sabotage” its competitors, which would determine which follow-up commercial Coke would run right after the Super Bowl concluded.
After getting 78,000 site requests per second on Cokechase.com, the social media room urged consumers to vote with hashtags via Twitter, but the chatter about the blackout effectively drowned it out. Laura Houghton, senior social-media manager at Coca-Cola, said, “The blackout is not our conversation to have.” Luckily for Coke, the blackout did not affect the overall success of their commercial. Coke’s production team presented preliminary numbers that were solid — 8.2 million interactions, including 910,000 votes, far exceeding the internal goals of 1.6 million interactions, including 400,000 votes.