Super Bowl XLV Mobile Commercials …or Not

In my third annual Super Bowl Mobile Hits and Mobile Misses analysis I am going to start with the mobile misses – pretty much all of the advertisers. I sat there watching each commercial with anticipation and my cell phone handy and ready to take action when directed and almost nothing happened. Really?!?

At first I was shocked. After three years of thinking this will finally be the year when the commercials start to use mobile as the effective direct response tool it can be; I had a huge realization. Super Bowl commercials are not wired for direct response at all. They are all about branding and impact and award winning and the water cooler effect. It is almost as if people laughing and talking is enough for these brands.

Maybe that is just the way it is always going to be. However, I think that is a crying shame. After all if you are going to spend millions of dollars why not ensure a measurable response? Why not have a text message call to action that stays on the screen the entire spot and get millions of opt-in subscribers for your mobile or email database?

This would effectively extend the reach of that ad well beyond the day or two of water cooler effect. By the end of this week the remembrance factor on these commercials will be nil. (OK, that Doritos finger sucking one will probably stick with us all for a lot longer than we want it to.)

But if there were a brand that could send out a text message coupon this coming Friday to millions of people who had opted in …that brand would be remembered. That brand would literally be in the palm of the hands of millions of Americans. They would be raking in measurable response days after everyone else’s commercial was a distant memory.

And that response could carry on ALL YEAR LONG. By the time Super Bowl XLVI was coming around they could even use that text message list to hype the new commercial. Oh my goodness, why do none of these advertisers grasp this?

Especially LivingSocial and Groupon! It seems to me that their businesses will live or die based on their opt-in lists. If their ads were better (not a burly guy turning into a cross dresser or a total slam on Tibet’s struggles) I propose it would have been possible for them to each grab at least a few million more email subscribers with a simple “Text your email address to this short code to sign up for daily offers” or “Sign up for daily deals now at”

To quote my favorite movie of all time, The Princess Bride, it is INCONCEIVABLE to me that this was missed. How much more money would these companies be making today with their daily offer? Tomorrow? Next week? The Wall Street Journal asks, “Who Won The Super Bowl – Groupon Or LivingSocial?” and I say neither one. They both lost. The opportunity cost on missing out on using mobile to build their emails lists is huge.

What about all the car companies…what if dealers across the country had lists of people who wanted to test drive a car they saw on a commercial? All it would take is a simple “Text your email address and zip code to this short code and a list of nearby dealerships will be sent to you.” Following up with hot prospects is a lot better than sitting around waiting for someone to come into the dealership.


OK, now on to the Mobile Hits. The big winner was the NFL – sort of. They had the most mobile calls to action in the whole game. They had a text call to action in the first half. By texting NFL to 8915 I would be able to get “News, Stats, Highlights and More.” This actually sounded exciting and compelling so I texted in.

Unfortunately, the only thing I got back was a message telling me that my message was sent using an invalid number of digits. I never got my news, stats highlights or more. Bummer. Wonder what happened with the short code. Was this a carrier specific campaign but not announced that way?

The NFL also did a very good job suggesting that logging in to to vote for the MVP could be done via mobile. That was great. Even as I write that I am so sad that this is the best use of mobile in the whole Super Bowl.

Another mobile win was, again, In their funny “go first” ad they suggest that sometimes going first is not all it is cracked up to be. When choosing a car it is best to see what others have already found out. The person doing the finding out was standing in a showroom using his mobile device to access to see reviews. Smart ad. Good use of suggesting mobile. Go First Ad


I feel compelled to mention the SalesForce commercial. Essentially the whole point of this commercial was that using their software via mobile would increase productivity. However, the whole thing was muddled up by the “Baby Peas” concept which was so weird. These commercials even made the top three disliked commercials.

It gives me great pleasure that the sexist domain seller commercials are also on that list. I refuse to even name them since they seem happy to have any attention and count it as reason to keep running these insipid ads.

Completely unrelated to mobile in anyway, I have to say that Budweiser (my favorite beer of all time) let me down by not having any good Clydesdale commercials. A cameo appearance in one commercial is NOT enough of the beautiful horses. Come on Bud!

And E*Trade, too, was a disappointment. I expect a lot from that talking baby and didn’t even crack a smile this year. That is almost as sad as mobile being missed by practically all the advertisers.


  1. “I had a huge realization. Super Bowl commercials are not wired for direct response at all. They are all about branding and impact and award winning and the water cooler effect. It is almost as if people laughing and talking is enough for these brands.”

    I think this nails it. You are talking about two different worlds. “Big Business” (with fat budgets and egos) and “Entrepreneurs” that operate on a shoestring and have to make every dime work.

    The best example of this is the Wright Brothers vs. their main competition; Samuel P. Langley. The Wrights operated a small bicycle shop in Dayton OH. Langley was the head of the Smithsonian Institute – a position that was considered to be the “chief scientist” at that time. Langley was well located and connected and had received a $50,000 grant from the War Dept. and another 50K from private funding. That total equaled about a million dollars in todays money.

    Langley built a full sized “Aerodrome” and used all of his money to do it. The Wrights in contrast broke the problem of flight into smaller problems and built on a series of small successes after carefully testing their theories. They ended up spending a total of $1,200 to build their Wright Flyer that successfully flew at Kitty Hawk. Langley’s TWO Aerodromes both crashed in the Potomac River, the second almost drowned his “pilot”. Langley was out of funds and was the laughing stock of the press. The Brooklyn Eagle quoted Representative Hitchcock as saying, “You tell Langley for me … that the only thing he ever made fly was Government money.”

    Langley died a broke and broken man. The Wrights by contrast – well as they say “the rest is history”.

  2. I agree, I was so disappointed I had my phone fully charged to test out the mobile ads, and I only caught the NFL one. Same response invalid number. I felt like an idiot telling all my friends mobile marketing is the next big thing, when so many advertisers missed it this year.

  3. Great article Kim. There is another component to mobile that I think adds color to this discussion. Why aren’t these brand advertisers covering their bases in terms of mobile search. The incremental dollars are trivial and would extend the reach of their TV buy. In this blog post on Mobile Search Super Bowl Commercial Winners and Losers I detail how Chevrolet was the big winner. Meanwhile brands like Doritos, Pepsi Max, Budweiser, and Snickers all missed the mark.

    Curious to see how this changes a year from now as I think mobile is hitting the mainstream this year.

  4. I was very disappointed to see that these brands missed the mark on mobile this year. It also seemed to me that more brands referenced their social media community in their ads than last year.

  5. Kim,

    Thanks for the review; I was trying to remember any mobile and the only one I had was the NFL reference to a website. Very disappointing, this year had less mobile than last year.

    The only text reference I recalled was a booth shot of John Madden texting (or sleeping with mobile phone in hands).

    Surprising that companies spend millions for airtime; a lot for creative; and then leave the low-hanging fruit (lead lists; continuous engagement) to go stale.

    I won’t reveal my team allegiance but “wait till next year” is a very familiar theme. Mobile won’t wait that long; some companies are going to clean up this year.

  6. This is very well written and explained article. The Super Bowl is such a huge event, you have to expect sideshows like this to pop up, and there be nothing wrong with that. Anything that will make you laugh is a good thing. Even if it’s in the name of commerce and advertising, there’s nothing like a good laugh to brighten your day. So if one of the sideshows of the Super Bowl is a bunch of humorous commercials that function as 30-second or 60-second short films, then we should applaud.

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