Super Bowl Advertisers Ask Viewers to Stop Watching

Marketers use QR codes, custom websites and new content on other channels to pull consumers away from the main event

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The tight end got a ring. The singer-songwriter did not.

Some Super Bowl 58 viewers might have missed this outcome if they were too busy looking into DoorDash’s offer to give away every item advertised during the Big Game.

Indeed, a major trend among Super Bowl 2024 advertisers was a request for viewers to leave the match behind. Or, at least, turn their focus to another screen to do something else—potentially missing a quarterback sack or, more devastating, another commercial someone else paid up to $7 million to air.

NYX’s spot starring Cardi B, for example, ended with a QR code enticing viewers to see what happens next. TurboTax also flashed a QR code people could follow for a chance to win $1 million. After the halftime show, Apple encouraged viewers to log onto Apple Music to hear more Usher. Beyoncé, with help from Verizon, released new music. Snapchat asked viewers to visit a custom website. So did Pfizer.

Early in the program, Ryan Reynolds, timed with a pregame ad, posted a trailer for the new Deadpool movie on social media. No one, no matter how great at multitasking, can concentrate on the two-minute clip and whatever’s happening on CBS at the same time.

“Almost every ad is sending consumers to do something else,” said Anjali Bal, an associate professor of marketing at Babson College. Bal noted this makes sense, since any other channel of communication is less expensive than the Super Bowl.

It’s not a new tactic, of course. Two years ago, during 2022’s Big Game, Coinbase ran an ad that was nothing more than a floating QR code inviting viewers to leave the sporting match. But it is part of an evolving trend in marketing. And as one of America’s last big collective moments watched by millions of consumers, even pulling a fraction of them away is a coup.

“Increasingly, people are no longer passive TV viewers; they seek interactive and engaging experiences, which lead to second-screening,” said Jura Liaukonyte, professor of marketing in Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business. “Brands are adapting by meeting audiences where they are, which is increasingly online and on mobile devices.”

Liaukonyte pointed to another benefit behind the strategy: Sending viewers to digital platforms provides a concrete measure of viewer engagement. She stated those insights are “not as readily available through traditional TV viewership metrics.”

As much as the Super Bowl remains a major event, not even it can escape the ramifications of a media environment that grows more fragmented by the day. The subtext of Pepsi ending its halftime show sponsorship in 2022 following a decade-long partnership, and Anheuser-Busch walking away from its more than three-decade run as the Super Bowl’s sole alcohol advertiser, is that even if collective moments attract a substantial number of viewers, those viewers are increasingly paying attention to something else.

Like Taylor Swift.

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