The Mobile Super Bowl We Missed
For several years now, a number of mobilistas like me have been waiting for that breakthrough Super Sunday when somehow the biggest ad event of the year acknowledges, validates or accelerates in some way the advance of mobile marketing. The Super Bowl is after all the ultimate ad-spend orgy, so we all expect at some point to see mobile marketing efforts become as integrated with the much-watched ad spots as Web URLs.
And every year we seem to be disappointed. Where are the short code shout-outs? After a year of iPhone app hype, didn't anyone want to push their branded app in an ad? Don't brands want to ride the game fever with some SMS polling and voting? During one of the most watched TV events of the year, in one of the last places where "mass media" means something anymore, don't some marketers want to take down a few names and numbers?
As Jeff Hasen of HipCricket said in a message he circulated after Twittering the game, "where were the mobile offers? Denny's will give away free breakfasts Tuesday - they could've had consumers text in for the same offer, then they would've had the opportunity to remarket to them following an opt-in."
I won't go over the same ground done ably and comprehensively by mobile consultant Kim Dishinski. Kim has made a tradition of posting a video blog reviewing the mobile presence in the Super Bowl.
Like some of us who were Twittering the issue, Kim agrees that the Cars.com ad was the most effective integration of mobile during the game. The spot essentially demoed the way the brands can be used on the car lot.
FloTV had an ad that I thought was very effective in offering a montage of recent historical events to show what you won't miss if you have mobile TV service. There was some Twitter blowback over the inclusion of 9/11 images, which many considered in bad taste.
Of course looking for mobile marketing presence in Super Bowl ads does come with caveats. We have seen ads in the past try to prompt people to text in, but getting enough screen time to make the number and keyword stick with viewers is a challenge. CBS and the NFL were able to get their SMS prompts for MVP voting and Haiti relief fund donations on for a short while, but this is a tough thing to do in an ad. Some ads did signal to the user that they could browse to the URL on both their Web browser and their mobile browser, which I think is a good effort.
The "Free Jeans" Dockers ad, for instance, seemed to crash the Web servers for a while, but once the URL was accepting traffic again, it redirected me to the mobile site, which was fairly well done.
In fact, the mobile marketing that was missed on TV was actually happening on the mobile Web. While it was disappointing that the NFL and CBS did not push people to their respective mobile sites enough, both brands had some worthy content and excellent ad exposure there. NFL.com hosted wonderful blogs that could serve as real-time second-screen commentary that could run in parallel to the first screen. CBS crafted a superb play-by-play visual breakdown that the user could follow in tandem with the coverage. Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall TV viewers being told they could get such levels of detail and parallel coverage if they just cracked open their phones. Now that was a missed opportunity for both CBS and NFL, which had the screen time and space to do just that.
Also interesting was how major mobile sports sites leveraged the Super Bowl with advertisers. For all the talk I heard about Google's on-air ad, no one mentioned that the brand also seemed to own the NFL mobile site during the game with a much better campaign. The banner atop NFL.com's mobile site pushed me to a dedicated mobile YouTube page with several videos of Google "search stories." The blog pages in the NFL mobile site also reiterated the PapaJohn's Super Bowl ads with a text ad for the same $10 pizza deal.
At CBS Sports's mobile site, Wheat Thins owned the day with a very good expandable ad unit that clicked through to one of the more visually clever TV ads.
At several mobile sites I noticed some of the same movies that were advertising heavily on-air were iterated on mobile as well. "Shutter Island" was present at ESPN Mobile, where it clicked through to a robust landing page of trailers, downloads and even movie chats. Interestingly, the mobile banner and landing page for "Prince of Persia actually pointed people back to the TV set, asking them to look for the film's Super Bowl spot.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all on the mobile Web Sunday was that a simple Google search of "Super Bowl 2010" actually did bring up the NFL's site as a top result, and the NFL was good enough to have a redirect in place so that I got a seamless mobile-friendly experience. The good news was that a more seamless and effective second screen content and ad ecosystem seemed to be evolving this year, even if the first screen failed to push people there. The church was preaching to the already-converted.
Clearly mobile marketers were acknowledging and leveraging the opportunity of the Super Bowl, but they weren't necessarily doing it on the first screen. Was it a great mobile Super Bowl if you were looking for validation of the platform from the TV? No. But something interesting was afoot on the mobile Web itself.