Social Media Failure by Super Bowl XLVI Advertisers

Super Bowl XLVI

I admit that as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings I wasn’t very excited about the Super Bowl game this year. However, as a fan of social media marketing, I was excited about the commercials. As the game started, I decided to stay away from the social media sites, and instead started a spreadsheet so I could take notes as I watched the commercials.

What I Expected

Prior to the game, I was anticipating the Super Bowl ads to be heavy on hashtags and promotion of the Twitter and Facebook pages of the advertisers. Articles like this one on – Super Bowl advertising will be heavy on hashtags – had me giddy with excitement prior to the appearance of the first ad.

Unfortunately, although I was happy with the outcome of the game, I was disappointed with the poor implementation of social in the ads. 

The Results

By my count, I saw 89 ads between the start and finish of the game, and only six of them included hashtags. Things got off to a good start, as the first two ads from Bud Light Platinum and Audi both included hashtags (#MakeItPlatinum and #SoLongVampires).

The next few ads didn’t include any hashtags or any mentions of Facebook or Twitter, but all hope was not lost. Through the first eight ads, I saw four hashtags, including a second use of #MakeItPlatinum for Bud Light Platinum, and #BetterWay in the Best Buy ad. Up to that point, there still wasn’t any inclusion of a Facebook or Twitter logo or URL, but I was happy with the fact that 50% of the ads had hashtags.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. After getting off to a quick start, I didn’t see any more hashtags until #WhatWorks was incorporated into ad #20 from GE, and the first mention of a Facebook page came at the end of ad #24 for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax The sixth and final hashtag was #BeckhamForHM, which was shown in the 27th ad for H&M’s Beckham Bodywear.

By my final count, there were 89 ads shown, and only 14 of them included social media elements – a disappointing 15%.


The surprise of the Super Bowl commercials for me was the incorporation of the mobile music-tagging app Shazam. I saw the Shazam logo in six different ads. The intent was for viewers to fire up the Shazam app on their mobile phones in order to recognize the audio in the ad, which took them to giveaways and other additional content.

Unfortunately, there were no clear instructions for viewers, and with many ads running only 30 seconds, I’m not sure how it was possible to see the logo, pull our your mobile phone, start the app, and tag the audio in time to get the link. I’m sure it worked for those who were prepared, but I wasn’t, so I was not able to test it.

What Does it Mean?

How can you use this information? I think the lesson learned is that most of the Super Bowl advertisers failed to take advantage of a huge opportunity. By excluding hashtags from their ads, they:

  1. didn’t account for the desire of social media savvy viewers to discuss their ads with the convenience of a hashtag, which would have allowed them to easily view all of the tweets from other viewers about the ads
  2. made it more difficult to track the mentions of their ads for reporting out to their stakeholders

Of course, social media savvy viewers are also very crafty. Following the M&Ms ad, twitter users took it upon themselves to create a hashtag to include in their discussion of the ad. Check out #SoItsThatKindOfParty to see what they’ve been saying. In this case, it worked out for M&Ms, but it could have been a disaster if users were offended by the ad and started tweeting something like #NakedCandyFail.

According to my calculations, almost 60% of the commercials included a link to the company website or a microsite. I understand the desire for traffic to your company’s website, but this is 2012, and people want to talk about your ad and your product during and following the big game. I’m very surprised that there were only 8 ads that displayed a Facebook and/or Twitter URL or logo, encouraging viewers to engage with the brand and continue the conversation online.

Regarding Shazam, although it was a good idea, it’s important to educate the viewers regarding the fact that the Shazam logo is a call-to-action. This may have been done in the days and weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, but if so, it wasn’t done well, because I had no idea it was even happening until after the game when I saw tweets about it.

What do you think?

Did the Super Bowl advertisers miss a huge opportunity to engage with their viewers? Please discuss in the comments below.

Image by stephen_d_luke


  1. says

    Then again, most superbowl commercials are instantly available online.

    Which gives people the time they would need to use the Shazam app.

    Hulu also gives people the ability to talk about the ads through comment boards. But I agree, it would be nice to see the advertisers take the initiative to include it in their ads.

  2. John says

    Has the social media advertising bubble burst.  I mean I am not seeing a lot of evidence to support its use in broad terms. And the feedback data here would say that the best thing to do is to concentrate on making a good advert. If people like a good advert they will talk about it, in personal or on-line conversations. 

    Just linking to social media is not enough. also people pretty well know where such stuff is so they will go there if they are interested. I would have thought people watching the game wanted to talk about the game not the adverts. Mostly I try and avoid the adverts as after all they are getting in the way of what you are watching, the game. 

    Its like going to the Cinema, if you walk out talking about the adverts that film was terrible, so it is for a sports event. If  I talk about the adverts then the game was terrible. 

    Just a view.

  3. Andrew Beechler says

    I noticed this as well in the Super Bowl commercials, but one thing that stuck out to me was the taste the “promoted” hashtags in the advertisements left in my mouth. I noticed on Twitter and other social media sites that more people were talking about the commercials that didn’t inclue hashtags (and the ever-popular halftime show). I felt that myself and many others saw the hashtags placed in the commercials in the same light we see promoted hashtags on Twitter itself. I saw them as somewhat cliche and didn’t use a single one personally. I felt the ads should have focused more on social media, but I don’t feel the ones that did were successful at it.

    • says

      Part of the problem for me was that there was a hashtag on a commercial for a turbine. The only way I’m going on Twitter to talk about that hashtag is to make fun of them for advertising about a turbine and thinking anyone would actually talk about it on Twitter.

      • Andrew Beechler says

        Exactly. I feel everyone has gotten the idea now that they need to be in social media to engage with their consumers, but it is an industry and company-tailored media that cannot just be used effectively the same way for each company.

      • says

        Precisely. Good point. Just because I say earlier that the social media bubble hasn’t burst, does not mean that EVERY industry needs social media.

        I might understand why they wouldn’t include a hashtag, as hashtags are sometimes taken advantage of by competitors and general internet trolls to flame the company.

  4. says

    I would tend to agree with you. We (ExactTarget) completed some some pretty in-depth tracking in regards to the “Social Super Bowl.” Surprisingly, the commercials without the hashtags had the most impact on Twitter.

    We put together an infographic to show the winners and losers.
    Link –

  5. russ evansen says

    It’s clear to me that far too many advertisers still think conventionally. That’s reflected not only in their lack of social media awareness but also in the largely unimaginative content of the ads themselves (dogs, babes and frat boy humor abound once again). I did like the use of Shazam, though, which reflects an awareness that many people now record programs like the Super Bowl and can pause and rewind at will.

    • says

      Well DUH! I never even thought about watching my recorded version to test out the Shazam app! Thanks for opening my eyes, Russ. We tested it on the @AmFam commercial today using the YouTube video, and it was actually pretty slick!

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