Riding the slipstream

It’s Monday morning after the Super Bowl. Your feet drag as you walk into the office. You stop by your desk to put your bag down and then charge towards the coffee machine. You pour your first cup of the day. The guy who is always wearing a short sleeve button-down shirt regardless of the weather approaches you and starts chatting about his favorite ad from the game. You take your first sip and before you go for a second, you look up and spot a small group of people heading towards the coffee machine that is not even two feet behind you. They pour their coffee and join the conversation.  Two minutes of commercial-mentioning pass:

GUY WITH BUTTON DOWN (GWBD): How much did that spot cost to air again?

WOMAN FROM CUBICLE NEXT TO YOU: The average price for thirty seconds of Super Bowl air time is 3.8 million.*

GWBD: That’s just for the airtime. Don’t forget about the added costs of actually creating the commercial.

Conversation ensues for another minute until GWBD mentions his workload and everyone returns to his or her desk.


The nearly four million-dollar price tag is the highest amount the networks have ever set. Many marketers, such as the creators of Go Daddy’s commercial, point to the volume of conversation their ads created on social media to justify the multi-million dollar price tag. But does a brand need upwards of $3.8 million to take advantage of Super Bowl hype?  Not necessarily. This year, two brands got people talking without a huge price tag:

Oreo Takes the Cake 

Oreo cookie has been declared the winner of the Super Bowl’s blackout, beating other brands that used the power outage as a marketing opportunity. Within minutes of the power failure, @Oreo tweeted a photo of an Oreo cookie in a lit corner against a black background. White text under the cookie read: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The satirical, simple, and relevant message resonated with frustrated viewers, most of whom used the interruption to check their Twitter feed and revisit the snack menu. At the time of writing, the Tweet had more than 16,000 retweets and more than 13,000 related news articles. The photo’s production cost was minimal and the media buy was nothing.

Even with the considerable cost associated with setting up a war room for senior management and the client, this social media execution still cost significantly less than a Super Bowl commercial would. And it got people talking.

The Commercial You Didn’t See

Old Milwaukee Beer’s Super Bowl antics are not novel to 2013. For the past couple of years, Will Ferrel has been writing and starring in “crazy fun commercials” for the beer. He spends very little on production and shoots all of the commercials in small towns like Terre Haute, Indiana. The beer company airs the commercial during the Super Bowl in small markets like North Platte, Nebraska, spending very little on media. They then post the video online and allow the powers of the internet to take over.  The beer company’s adept manipulation of the Super Bowl hype brings awareness to the brand at a low cost. And, despite its affiliation with the hyper-commercialized Super Bowl, they successfully maintain their branding as an underground beer. At time of writing, the 2013 Super Bowl ad had more than 3 million YouTube views and nearly 7,000 related new articles.


A huge budget is not a requisite for owning a piece of the Super Bowl conversation. True, some of the bigger spenders own a larger chunk of the conversation, but that’s okay. Perhaps ideal. For a brand like Old Milwaukee, a multi-million dollar commercial isn’t appropriate for the image they are working towards. Their method fits with the brand and thus provides a high value at a low cost. Plus, we benefit from brands like Old Milwaukee Beer and Oreo by seeing how creativity, ingenuity, and wit can take a brand places that no money could ever buy.


*Note: While quotes are direct, characters are fictionalized



The Easiest Word To Say Is No

I watched the Super Bowl on TV last Sunday. But I “watched” it on Twitter, too. And Twitter provided an interesting real-time perspective on the commercials.

My big takeaway? There was gut-level consensus on very few of the Super Bowl ads. In fact, most sparked polar opposite opinions – often from two (or more) perspectives I trusted.

It reminded me of just how easy it is to not like something. How easy it is to say no. And how easy it would have been to leave the three most popular Super Bowl ads (at least according to USA Today’s AdMeter) on the conference room wall…

1. Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” (7.76 AdMeter Score; over 9 million YouTube views)

Easy to say: “Haven’t I seen this (many, many, many times) before? No thanks.”

But… In the words of AdAge’s Ken Wheaton, it was “Weepy, sentimental, nostalgic… everything I want from a Budweiser Super Bowl spot.” I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve heard from that said they actually cried during this spot. With viewers leaning forward in their chairs, Budweiser gave them exactly what they wanted.

2. Tide’s “Miracle Stain” (7.75 AdMeter Score; over 800K YouTube views)

Easy to say: “You want to make fun of religious zealots and imply we’re rooting for the Ravens? Why would we want that kind of trouble? No.”

But… This was one of the most watchable ads in the Super Bowl. And it spoke to a – gasp – feature and benefit. Tide gets stains out. Even salsa stains shaped like Joe Montana.

3. Ram Truck’s “Farmer” (7.43 AdMeter Score; over 4 million YouTube views)

Easy to say: “You want to use a two-minute-long thirty-year-old speech from a conservative commentator that has already been made into a commercial? Seriously? No.”

But… It was beautifully written – by Paul Harvey. It was beautifully shot. (Full disclosure: This was my favorite ad from the game.) And, like Clint Eastwood last year, it made my Twitter feed stop. As I can only assume everyone stopped tweeting to listen.

It’s easy to say no. It’s hard to trust a vision not yet realized. Congratulations to the teams that had the conviction to see these ideas through. Now if only someone had said been able to say no to the sounds Bar Refaeli made.

Interested in more stuff I find interesting? Follow me @casey_flanagan on Twitter.