February 9, 2017

Some of the Smartest Marketing During the Super Bowl Wasn’t Even on TV

Twenty-four hours later, the dust is finally settling. This Super Bowl will, without a doubt, go down in the history books as one of the greatest games of all time. The dust is also settling on the Monday morning quarterback blitz of advertisers and creatives dissecting and ranking all our favorite ads.

This year—and maybe partly because of the epic game—the ads were seemingly not as strong as in years past. But that’s OK, because the most interesting and creative advertising happened on the internet and the following morning. From social campaigns to social movements, these brands found a way to fight through the noise to get noticed. It was strategic, methodical and generally more successful than the ads themselves.

84 Lumber
Let’s get this one out of the way, because it technically aired Super Bowl night, but it was only one-third of the ad. The real ad was hosted on the web because Fox banned the original spot for being too provocative. Hello, free publicity. So instead, 84 Lumber opted to tease the ad during the big game, and then pay it in full on their website. However, they weren’t expecting the kind of buzz they received, and the site crashed. Oh, hi, more free publicity. Because of the content and style, the 84 Lumber ad was the most talked-about Super Bowl ad—both before and after the game. This was one great strategy by their creative, media and PR teams, knowing how to transcend one platform and create an experience.

Before the big game, Tostitos was one of the most talked-about brands. And how could it not be? They invented a bag of chips that you can use not only as a breathalyzer but also to order an Uber if you are too drunk to drive—if you pair your bag to your phone. Social good meets smart and effective marketing.


While T-Mobile and Sprint were squaring off during the breaks, Verizon decided to light the two of them on fire on Twitter—while saving all the money in the world. It started with live responses to their ads. Verizon didn’t have to do that, considering they had already sponsored the entire Super Bowl fan experience. But when you know what you are doing, you can have fun and create a buzz that is louder than the rest of the noise.

Shots were first fired with this gem:

That was in response to this T-Mobile spot, which was widely panned as one of the worst of the night:

But then things escalated quickly in response to the second-half ads:

Verizon began relentlessly responding to both brands, until they and T-Mobile were in an actual Twitter war. It all ended with this gem, and everyone was ready for a shower:

The Heinz brand had one of the best showings in 2016 with their infamous hot-dog dogs spot. This year, the brand was strategically absent from the action. Instead, they worked hard at creating a newsworthy social movement that was ready to rip the rug out from under nearly everyone that advertised the night before.

Monday morning, Heinz announced that they had decided to save their $5 million and give their entire staff the day off. That’s pretty cool. But it gets even better, from a multichannel approach, as Heinz decided to sponsor a petition to make the day after the Super Bowl a federal holiday. Their advertising was free-ish, and it was a talking point on most news shows.

Did anyone catch that 1980s Eggo ad during the game? Probably not, because it was a two-second intro to the Stranger Things trailer—and when that cast is on screen, nothing else matters. (Side note: Eight months is a long-ass time to wait for the next Stranger Things installation.)

Eggo was insanely methodical with this one. They helped to get Stranger Things in the Super Bowl, but they also cashed in on it through Twitter during the hours after the game. Their follow-ups were as golden as the strategy itself.

Then they just spoke directly to their audience:

And then when Zac Efron decided to react, Eggo knew exactly how to respond:

Of all the smart marketing that happened last night, this was by far my personal favorite. Multichannel, telling a story from multiple directions. If you want a lesson on product placement, this is it right now.