Op-Ed: The Super Bowl’s Big Brand Wins Aren’t What You Might Think

By Kiran Aditham 

Our final day of Super Bowl ad-related coverage (we hope) continues with the return of our regular contributor Josh Seifert, now client services director at Huge, who took January off but is back to share his thoughts, on, among other things, how Twitter (along with the Ravens, of course) emerged victorious from Sunday night’s big game.

As a paid member of the advertising industrial complex, it’s my job – like it probably is yours – to pay more attention to Super Bowl advertising than any normal person. This year, because so many ads were available to watch online before the game, I was able to spend more time in the commercial breaks evaluating how much attention they were getting from the people I was watching with who don’t work in advertising. It should come as no surprise that while there’s still curiosity in the advertising sideshow, most people are far less invested in the commercials than we all are.


At a macro level Super Bowl media is powerful, measured to be effective, and drives business performance for many brands advertising. It’s by and large entertaining, even if only to wish that a particular spot could be “unseen.” Best of all, every day people actually do seek to watch some commercials—at least purposefully seeing them — instead of merely regarding advertising as for some sucker easily manipulated out of their purchasing free-will. But, despite all this, the masses weren’t banging down the doors of the nearest store on Monday morning to stock up on pistachios.

In this way, the disconnect between the macro effectiveness of Super Bowl media and people’s very casual interest in the commercials isn’t all that different than what happens in digital media. That is to say, it’s not all that important that only one in a thousand people might click on a particular ad if you distribute billions of them. With all of the ads online well ahead of time, and news outlets exclusively debuting commercials—I saw VW’s ‘Get Happy’ spot on CNN.com, but not before I was forced to view some Nissan pre-roll.

The clear losers of the night were obviously the power guys at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But out of the unfortunate blackout, social media – and Twitter in particular – rose as the evening’s clear winner. For anyone working in digital it was incredibly exciting to see fully staffed social media war rooms and brands like Audi, Oreo, Tide, and PBS ready to participate and take advantage of opportunities in real time, including Audi taking a barb at the @MBUSA Superdome.

Yes, the reach of a few tweets represents a drop in the bucket compared to the massive investment required to pull off a Super Bowl spot. But regarding their small impact to be to seemingly significant misses the real victory for social media this year. That the tweets even existed in the first place represents the mainstreaming of socially integrated advertising and a serious cultural shift for brands and the way they act and react in the digital space.