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The best Super Bowl ad was free

With ad prices as high as $3.8 million for a 30-second spot, advertising in last night’s Super Bowl certainly wasn’t cheap.  There were a few companies that created some memorable spots, but you can argue that the most popular ad of the night didn’t cost a penny.

Just after the third quarter began, roughly half of the lights in the Superdome went out.  People took to Twitter in droves to discuss it and make jokes, and a few enterprising companies used it to their advantage.  Audi tweeted that they were “sending some LEDs to the Superdome right now” and Walgreens made sure we knew that they carry both candles and lights.  However, the clear winner was Oreo, who tweeted out this image with the text “Power out? No problem.” just minutes after the lights went out.


As of this morning they’ve been retweeted more than 14,000 times!  It’s rare for a company to be able to post something that quickly because of the red tape and approvals that are necessary for each tweet.  In this case, it worked because the ad agency and Oreo staff were already in a room together and were able to spring into action quickly.

With your business, it’s unlikely that you have anyone that needs to “approve” your content, so you can quickly take advantage of opportunities like this.  Just be careful.


This phenomenon is known as “newsjacking” and it can be a double-edged sword.  Oreo was wise to jump on this opportunity because it was an event that millions were talking about, yet it was unrelated to any injuries or death.  I assume that Oreo took a minute to consider the consequences of riding this event for their own gain, and decided (wisely) that it would go over without a problem.

On the other hand, there are many companies that have found themselves on the wrong side of this kind of situation.  There were various companies that tried to newsjack Hurricane Sandy for their own gain, or the famous tweet from Kenneth Cole a few years ago that tried to portray the unrest in Egypt as people being excited about their new offerings.  Going back further, furniture maker Habitat found themselves in hot water after adding unrelated trending topics to all of their tweets.  In all of those cases, companies had to offer apologies for their actions.

As Techdirt mentioned, in the end “all of this does raise a larger point about marketing and advertising these days. Doing a good job often has less to do with how much money you spend than with how good you are at actually connecting with people.”  Stay alert, stay transparent, and connect whenever possible.

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Mickey Mellen

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    • Good link! It’s really an interesting story; the tweet was essentially free, but it wouldn’t have been able to happen if they didn’t spend millions on the commercial and therefore had the team all assembled in the room as a result.

      Fortunate timing for them, and very well executed.

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