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Mobile Super Bowl Commercial Winners and Losers

Posted on Monday, February 7th, 2011 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, Mobile, SEM, SEO

I decided to take a new and fresh perspective on Super Bowl advertising because the commercials quite honestly have not been very good the past few years.  I wanted to see who was going to win the mobile advertising battle.  So with my iPhone4 all charged up and actually working (thanks AT&T!), I started to enter brand after brand, product after product into Google on Safari mobile browser.  If it was not clear to you, there was a hands-down winner this year.

Overall, I was surprised by how many brands did not think about mobile this year even though smartphone penetration is on the rise and mobile search queries have grown with it.  Why not take the extra step and buy some inexpensive mobile ads on your brand or product terms?  Surprisingly, brands like Doritos, Pepsi, Budweiser and Snickers did not.

So there I was deep in the third quarter of one of the better Super Bowls I can remember when I knew who won the game for mobile advertising this Sunday – Chevrolet.  It was not even close.

The Coaching

When it comes to winning games it all starts with having a great game plan and setting your team up for success.  Chevrolet did this by building a 5-page mobile microsite that features their top 5 cars: Cruze, Volt, Silverado, Camaro, and Sonic.  The site was optimized for mobile, reinforced the commercials they ran and gave visitors an easy way to watch it again, and had a clean top navigation that gave options for clicking on: vehicles, dealers, offers, and more.  Finally, I liked how they reinforced the recent awards they had won for the Volt, and Silverado.  The only odd part was including the Sonic, which did not get featured in a commercial, but even the best coaches call a bad play here or there.

The Offense

In the third quarter a slew of car commercials were hitting between every break in the action.  Every time I went to search for the commercial, Chevrolet appeared.  Sometimes alongside the competitor, sometimes all by their lonesome, like a wide receiver open on a post route or in the flat.

Kia Optima, Chrysler 200, Mini Countryman, and Volkswagen Beetle:

For the millions of dollars these companies spent on production and air time, the least they could do was cover off on their brand/product terms on mobile.

The Defense

This was a game of great defenses and Chevrolet was right there alongside Clay Matthews and Troy Polamalu.  They did not miss a beat on all of their new car lines: Chevy Volt, Chevy Cruze, Chevy Silverado, and of course the old reliable Chevy Camaro.

The Special Teams

Special teams play always is a factor and it was again on this night.  Chevrolet’s coup de grace was doing a huge mobile buy on Super Bowl related terms.  When I searched for terms like: Super Bowl, Super Bowl 45, Super Bowl halftime show, and even Packers Super Bowl Champions (right after they won), Chevrolet was sitting there in the top spot.  Just to make sure this was not a broad match to the keyword “super bowl” I did not find them on the term “Steelers Super Bowl Champions” or “Super Bowl Champions”.  Chevrolet was trying to be specific and this really helped them win the night in terms of mobile search advertising.

The Losers

The big losers of the day were big brands like Pepsi, who should know better.  They did not buy the keyword “Pepsi Max”.  Then there was Doritos who also did not buy their brand terms and instead allowed their organic result www.doritos.com to go to a site that is flash, which on my iPhone4 looked like this:

Even brands such as Snickers, coming off one of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of 2010, failed to bid on their own brand terms.  And while Bud Light did, they took you to a site that was not optimized for a mobile phone:

Finally, Bridgestone goes so far as to sponsor the halftime show featuring the Black Eyed Peas, but does not buy the term “Bridgestone halftime show” or even broad match their brand term to capture those searches.

An appropriate ending to the evening and what seemed like the well-deserved honor was Chevrolet sponsoring the trophy presentation and giving the game’s MVP Aaron Rodgers a brand new Chevy Camaro.  If there was a mobile advertising award on this evening, the hands down winner is Chevrolet, Super Bowl XLV’s MVP!

2011 looked to be the year that mobile search advertising would finally get to the next level.  Based on the number of brands that didn’t extend their TV buys into AdWords, we may need some additional work in the off-season.

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17 Responses to “Mobile Super Bowl Commercial Winners and Losers”

  1. Mary Hayes says:

    Excellent points and definitely a huge opportunity missed by some brands. Of the 20 or so people I was watching the Superbowl with, roughly 2/3 were simultaneously thumbing through their iPhones and Blackberries while watching the TV.

  2. Barbara says:

    Excellent article and insights. Chevrolet definitely took an integrated marketing approach and their team will hopefully reap the rewards. I actually don’t see the Sonic as a fumble. Those TV spots are expensive and I’m sure that they shot a spot (or a few spots) for the Sonic that just didn’t pan out the way the other 4 did, but why miss the opportunity to sell some cars. You have to go through the production, why not be there for the search.

    Isn’t it amazing that huge brands, spending millions and touting their marketing prowess would drop the ball on something as ROI focused as search. Opportunity for us I guess…

  3. Waleed says:

    Great observations. I spent the first half in a cafe (surrounded by folks who weren’t much interested in the game) and yet they all had mobile queries not just from the commercials, but even based on sponsor banners/branding on the field. In that case, there were phones, tablets & notebooks involved, so lots of search opportunity that appears to have been missed out on. Should be interesting to see how different next years’ Superbowl will be, as Mobile continues on it’s drastic climb in 2011.

  4. Grace Kim says:

    I was really impressed by Chevy’s integrated approach on their Superbowl campaign. So often, companies spend millions on offline media, then forget to make the connection online. It’s like buying a new designer suit for an interview, but refusing to get a haircut to finish the look.

    It’s also great to see how Chevy customized mobile landing pages for each of their major car models. This further improves user experience by shortening the funnel and keeping the content relevant to the search query. And as bonus – the pages were designed superbly. They kept it product-focused without falling into the trap of another, boring side product shot.

  5. Elizabeth Fox says:

    Great post. Can’t wait to see how this changes (quickly) with time.

  6. Yes, excellent points! I love that you covered the moible search aspect of mobile marketing around the Super Bowl.

    My take on it is that many advertisers, including Groupon and LivingSocial especially, missed out by not having a mobile opt-in. Imagine how many more subscribers to their daily deals they could have had with a simple “Text your email address to…”


    Agree with your comment on my post about how interesting it will be next year. At least I hope so.

  7. Vlad Rascanu says:

    Great article! I never even thought of looking at the success of these commercials from the smartphone point of view so this definitely was an interesting article to read. I’m sure these companies will learn from their mistakes.

  8. patrick says:

    Great article Mike. I’ve read a few reviews of Super Bowl ads and it seems like everyone was a fan of Chevrolet’s work. What those reviews don’t talk about is how Chevrolet took the extra step and executed a perfect mobile strategy to complete the experience for potential customers.

    Hopefully doritos, snickers and bridgestone get it right next year.

  9. Chevy dumped a ton of cash on an integrated marketing strategy that connected with it’s core audience. From mobile, tv, search and even Glee – a newer marketing channel it appears :-) Chevy managed to be “in your face” without the bad breath.

    Well done Chevy, and an excellent article, Mike.

  10. Matt says:

    Prescient observations, especially considering recent data that show sales of smartphones now outpacing desktops.

    Advertisers are beginning to understand how consumers interact with different media, but their approach still smacks of heavy-handedness. Go Daddy’s persistence that we should visit its website to see “unrated” content from its Super Bowl commercials might generate a ton of web traffic, but it’s still a huckster ploy. I don’t think it’s too far out that advertisers will figure out that televisions, smartphones, and computers are no longer independent entities, but parts of a single, integrated experience.

  11. Mike, nice article and great screen captures but you did miss the mark a bit so for correction purposes: Bridgestone did in fact have broad and specific search queries buys in paid search and mobile for Super Bowl Related terms and the Halftime Show – just as they have for the past 4 Super Bowls. I’m certain it was a slight oversight on your part but we do have the data to prove differently. Just keeping you on your toes. Thanks again for the article. In fact, this is one of the reason why the ads performed to well in digital because of all the paid elements we had working in search, mobile and otherwise. All my best,


    • Mike Solomon says:

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for reading the blog. Definitely sounds like you guys were on your game with your mobile search buys. This was definitely an unscientific test and I may have missed your ad while going in for another scoop of nachos during halftime. Would love to learn more about your integrated marketing efforts around this event.

      Best, Mike

  12. Whitney G. says:

    THis is a great read. I’ve been watching and reading a lot of analysis but nothing from this perspective. I will be forwarding to everyone in the office!
    I too was surprised that more wasn’t done w/ social and mobile. Lots of one-off ads w/ nothing behind them. Even an ad like Mini Countryman “cram it” could have had some supporting stuff around it and might have made it feel more legit (for instance the outdoor campaign is all about snow, as seen in this massive Times Square billboard right by our office: http://blog.cincinnatimini.com/2011/02/mini-countryman-in-times-square/)
    Was really expecting this to be a big year for more holistic campaigns – where was the mobile? social? heck even digital seemed to be mostly absent.
    An odd crop this year …..

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