Cross-Media Analysis of 2006 SuperBowl XL Ads

[This essay first published 1st April, 2006 at my old blog CME]

Many cross-media researchers would be aware of the cross-media ads that run at the Super Bowl. In 2004, the 30sec ad by Mitsubishi, ‘See What Happens’ (watch it here), ended with a cliffhanger and urged the viewer to At the site (they’ve stupidly let go of of the URL), viewers could then watch the 20sec ending of the clip. According to Joseph Jaffe, my favourite “integrated marketing” commentator, and Internet Retailer the traffic was:

  • 11 million hits within 6 hours of the ads broadcast [Jaffe, 2004]
  • “more visitors in the first 24 hours than does in a month” (over 294,000) [Jaffe, 2004]
  • with two-thirds of visitors watching the full 50-second ad two or more times.
    [Jaffe, 2004]
  • the site received over 31 million visits, over 8 million of them unique between the Super Bowl day and August 2004 [Internet Retailer, 2004]

A well-designed and successful campaign, until they let the URL go. Don’t they know that the idea of a singular event is not the (only) way to deliver content anymore? Hey, consider Chris Anderson’s oft-cited ‘long-tail’ theory (his book, incidently, will be out in May). But back to the Super Bowl. There were approximately 90,720 viewers of the SuperBowl on Sunday 5th Feb, with a 30 second spot costing about 2.5 million [Crain Communications, 2006]. This year, to gather some information about the expectations of viewers, comScore conducted a survey of 1,100 Americans, and found that TV audiences had their mouse at the ready:

  • 72% intend to log onto to the Internet during the Game Day
  • 56% of those will have a computer in the same room as the TV
  • 14% will use the Internet to monitor stats & stories related to the game
  • 14% will use the Internet to watch/download ads or video clips
  • 11% intend to visit the websites of advertisers
    [comScore, 2006a]

So, what happened next?

Here are the stats on the traffic that was driven from the Super Bowl XL 2006 TV commercials to websites. These are based on online articles that either quote the CEOs of the companies as their source, or provide their own traffic data. It should be noted that many of the stats list an increase in traffic, which, as many have noted, would naturally be an increase as it was a Sunday. There is also lots of discussion and stats about the traffic to sites that supplied the ads online, like iFilm, Google Video and AOL, but I’m concentrating on the cross-media traffic from specific TV-broadcast ads to websites. I’ll also be assessing the ads not just on their traffic, but on the design of the cross-media navigation according to my Call to Action (CTA) Cycle (cue long echo):

  1. Primer: prepare and motivate people to act;
  2. Referral: provide the means and instructions on how and when to act;
  3. Reward: acknowledge and recompense action.
    (Dena cited in Giovagnoli, 2005)

I’m amazed at how many properties ignore some or all of these steps: providing no motivation to act, no direct referral, no acknowledgement of your journey or no reward for your time and effort. There are many ways to do a referral too, it doesn’t have to be a URL, though a URL is the most efficient method we have so far. The reason? It is an invitation to act and a description on how to act bundled in one. [I’ve put forward an academic argument about how this works here.] It should be noted that I, unfortunately, did not see the websites during the SuperBowl period and so can only assess their ‘reward’ according to what I see online now and what reports I’ve read. If you have any details and even screen shots you can offer, that would be great. I’ve listed them in order of success in terms of the implementation of my CTA Cycle.

1. DOVE ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’
Primer: ‘Campaign for Real Beauty‘ ad (45 sec) calls for your assistance in letting young women improve their self-esteem and feel beautiful. Motivations are distributed throughout the ad, building with the statement (super): “let’s change their minds” (referring to girls who feel ugly).

Referral: Calls for viewer assistance to help Dove help young girls “feel good about themselves” and “see how beautiful she is”. Provides a link to do so with: “help us, get involved at“.

Reward: There is no immediate acknowledgement of where I’ve come from or my motivation to act (they didn’t say: “we’re glad you want to be involved and help us”). There is a visual acknowledgement in that the images on the webpage match the girls in the ad, so I know I’m in the right place. I can donate to the fund, which allows me to follow through on my intention to help (if that is what going to the website means). I can watch the ad and email it to a friend. There is also the opportunity to share my views in the forum and download a pdf of a “mother-daughter workbook”.


  • 7,000 people logged on to the website within 10 minutes of the ad airing [Horovitz, 2006a]
  • 1,600% increase between 7pm Sun – 2pm Monday as compared to an average 24hr period [Horovitz, 2006b]
  • 251% increase in daily visits [Hitwise, 2006]


What I love about this ad-web is that it is strong on all the stages of the CTA Cycle. The primer is a heart-wrencher that is calling for action from the beginning, not just at the end of the ad. The referral offers a good reason to act, bundling a mouse-click with activisim and self-esteem. In this referral, going to the website is not about finding out more, or getting the last bit of a sequence, it is a statement, a personal affirmation. Indeed, the URL is ‘in-story’. The reward with this site is obviously very personal as well, in wanting to help a young girl feel beautiful the visitor is also wanting themself to feel beautiful now, and even is helping the girl they were.
Primer: All GoDaddy ads that feature the girl. ‘Broadcast Hearing’ ad and web-only version showing the girl with a “wardrobe malfunction” in the 2005 SuperBowl. This is also mentioned and shown in the 2006. ‘Official’/’The Approved Ad (35sec) which continues the theme, the attempt to get the ad approved. But this time the ad cuts off the action, prompting viewers to find out if any nudity or reaction ensues. The music as well, builds and then is cut-off. A strong primer in the ilk of the Mitsubishi ad.


  • The company name is a URL;
  • All ads were framed with a icon in the bottom right corner;
  • ‘Official’ ad ended with “there’s more at

Reward: At present the site has a tiny mention on a menu bar to the top right of the webpage saying “TV Commercials“. Then I see an image of the girl, a reward for some, but which also�acknowledges that I’m on the right path as it reiterates the commercial content.

  • I can view the ad again,
  • Viewing the ad again gives me a 10% discount on any order (also if I view it at Google)
  • I get to see “more” by viewing the web-only version of the ad. This web-only version shows me “how the ad got approved” and provides me with the girl doing a stripper dance on the desk.
  • Within this web-only version is the offer of $1.99/yr to buy a domain name.
  • I can view other ads from the 2006 NFC playoofs and the 2005 SuperBowl and others.
  • I can also read a fun behind-the-scenes description of their process to try and get the ad accepted, including showing me storyboards.
  • I can download eight (8) versions of the ad.


  • 439,000 unique visitors on the day [comScore, 2006b]
  • 423% increase in market share of visits [Hitwise, 2006]
  • 1,564% increase in unique visitors on the Sunday, compared to the average of the 4 previous Sundays [comScore, 2006b]


Hitwise states that it had “the greatest daily increase on Super Bowl Sunday” [Hitwise, 2006]. They have strong primer and reward elements. The primer is an easily understood motivator: an incomplete text with the allure of sex and reactions to it. The referral element works in a few ways: the company name and website are one, which is a very neat bundling. No work on the behalf of the consumer needs to take place, they don’t have to try a URL or search for it. The company drives all references to it in whatever media to one place: the website. The website is its shop front, no bricks and mortar location that the website compliments. The company name/website in every scene is good, as it brands the production but also provides a visual prompt throughout the whole ad, not just at the end. The direct referral with the reason to act at the end of the ad is a bit weak in my mind. It is wonderfully simple, “more”, implying perhaps nudity, is at the website. I just think that ultimately, as more and more of these referrals emerge, that the offering of “more” just won’t cut it. But this is a future-oriented observation. Of course, once viewers got to the website they were rewarded with “more”: more sexiness, more storyline, more videos, more information. Providing rewards ‘in-story’ or ‘in-game’ was especially good as it perpetrates the peice rather than offering out-of-game/story reward onlys. Part of the success of this campaign, too, is that many viewers have been rewarded through previous campaigns and so a trust has been built. Viewers will take the time to follow their referrals again. I’m not surprised this topped the list in terms of traffic increase. It was a well engineered campaign in all three stages.
Primer: D.Pepsi: Brown and Bubbly ad features the new diet pepsi as a pop star on P.Diddy’s new album. Throughout most of the ad is the recurring chorus: “come an’ get you some, brown and bubbly”.

Referral: The end screen shows the in-story URL:

Reward: The site immediately acknowledges my journey by providing the same riff and an image from the ad.

  • Can watch the ad
  • Watch “reject videos”
  • Go “behind-the-scenes”
  • Create “personalised” videos by uploading photos
  • Download wallpaper


  • 285% increase in unique visitors compared with average of previous 4 Sundays [comScore, 2006b]
  • Average user session time of 3 mins 59 secs on game day compared to a 16 second average session time for the Diet Pepsi site [Hitwise, 2006]


Pre-ad anticipation was high, with the Pepsi/DietPepsi ads being looked forward to by 55% survey respondants [comScore, 2006a]. This ad, like the Dove one, uses an ‘in-story’ URL, which provides information about what the viewer can expect at the website without having to explain. It is an efficient use of textual space. The ad creates a strong fictional storyworld with a known star and images of a CD being recorded, music charts and a music video. It is a fictional world in which a product is a star. Once again, I beleive the motivation to have this fantastical world persist is a motivation to go to the site, but with this ad, so too is the coolness of Pepsi and perhaps getting closer to P.Diddy. My only problem with this CTA Cycle is that the primer and motivation “come an’ get some” and the site don’t really match. What am I getting? Perhaps if I could buy the CD and sign-up to a D.Pepsi fan club that would fit. And as Joseph Jaffe notes in his great podcast on the Super Bowl ads, “not one second was dedicated to why I needed to go to the [Diet Pepsi] website”.

Primer: ‘Whopperettes’ ad (61 secs) is a fun musical with women dressed as peices of a burger.

Referral: The final shot has the voice-over of “have it your way” with ““.

Reward: Users could create a customized Whopper out of “Whopperettes” & download the ad. The site is now down so no ongoing rewards.


  • 50,000 visitors in about 12 hours [Horovitz, 2006b]
  • 3,000 downloads of the ad [Horovitz, 2006b]
  • Average session time of 1 min 23 secs [Hitwise, 2006]


Claimed it was “the most popular ad site the chain ever launched” [Horovitz, 2006b], which is pretty good considering the viral success of There was pre-ad anticipation, with the 16% of survey respondants looking forward to the ads [comScore, 2006a]. This ad, like the CareerBuilder and Fedex ads, had alot of traffic because of the quirky storyworld that was offered. Unlike Dove’s campaign, they all provided fantastical worlds that I’m sure viewers were eager to see persist. The unusual nature of the ad, and beautiful women, provided a motivation to go to the site but I don’t see this as a successful CTA cycle implementation at all, especially now to that they’ve taken the site down.
Primer: Two 30sec TVCs: ‘Monkey Party’ and ‘Practical Jokers’ ads provide a funny joke about sales, inept bosses, and�working with monkeys. Tipping on half-virability/meme-like status in my estimate.

Referral: VO and super: “Want a new job?”, “we’ve got the most”, with voice-over of “” with super of “ a better job awaits”.

Reward: At present there is a segment at bottom of screen with an image of a monkey (visual cue that this is my path is correct and to continue in this direction). The segment has the textual prompt: “Build and Send your own Monk-e-mail”. This link takes the viewer to a dedicated page in which a monkey in a suit great me with: “Welcome to monk-e-mail, you’ve got something to say, I’ve got a nap to take, so let’s get on with it”. Basically, I can send a joke email talking video monkey to anyone I like. I can select a boss, co-worker or receptionist monkey (though I’m not sure how the recipient would know this), then place sunglasses or a wig etc on the monkey, then I can add audio. The audio can be pre-written or I can add my own words with text/phone/mic-to-speech. This service, incidently, is using the Oddcast technology that I use on some of my other sites.


  • Traffic up by 800,000 unique visitors [Horovitz, 2006b]


I’m surprised that this ad got so much website traffic. This is an example of viewers being moved not by the referral necessarily (did 800,000 people want a new job?) but by the hope that the fun storyworld of the monkey business would persist. And it did. They were rewarded with a surprise, a way to pass a joke in the theme of the ad to their mates, which makes them (the viewer) look good/fun/cool. So, the viral element was started with the TVCs and then brought home with the email. Those who actually did want a new job, they were rewarded, I guess, with the Career Builder service, though I can’t see any acknowledgement or reward for those who followed the referral, the promise, they made. They rewarded the implied element. I would of liked to have seen a generator that allowed you to enter in the company your worked for and they loaded a portrait of your CEO as a monkey, or something like that…to perpetrate the idea that we all work for monkeys, not we are monkeys.

Primer: Six TVCs: ‘Bud Light: Hidden Bud Light’ (31 sec); ‘Bud Light: Save Yourself’ (31 sec); ‘Bud Light: Secret Fridge’ (31 sec); ‘Budweiser: Wave’ (30 sec); ‘Budweiser: Superfan’ (30 sec);’Budweiser: Clydesdale American Dream’ (1min); Mishelob Amber: ‘Touch Football‘ (30 sec).

Referral: None of the TVCs provided�referrals. However, each ad ended with the brand logo and�the ads provided online had a copyright notice that included the Anheuser-Busch name. They used their brand to drive consumers from other websites to their own as well.

“Anheuser-Busch also partnered with websites frequented by consumers looking for extensive post-Super Bowl coverage, such as,,,, and, and placed banner ads on many of these websites to help drive adult consumers to its own brand websites where they could download the Super Bowl commercials.” [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]


  • “Anheuser-Busch enhanced its adult consumers online experience this year by making its commercials available in HD-quality, full-screen broadband video and for video-enabled iPod and PC downloads immediately following Sunday’s Super Bowl game at and” [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]
  • provided the ability to easily email a friend with the ad;
  • supplies alot of CGC, joke emails, radio spots etc that are part of the ‘Real Men of Genius’ campaign.
  • The ads were also offered on,,,,,


  • 21 million + viewings of online ads [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]
  • 300,000+ downloads of ads [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]
  • 136,000+ ads�downloaded from and, the most popular in order being ‘Hidden Bud Lights’, ‘Super Fan’ and Budweiser’s ‘Clydesdale American Dream’. [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]
  • The most popular ads viewed (in order): Budweiser’s ‘Super Fan’, Bud Light’s ‘Secret Fridge’ and ‘Touch Football’ [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]
  • Won the USA Today Ad Meter Super Bowl advertising consumer poll, with seven of its ads placing in the top 11, for the eigth consecutive time [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]
  • 503% increase in unique visits to on the day [comScore, 2006b]
  • 136% increase in visits to compared with previous day [Hitwise, 2006]
  • 135% increase to visits to compared with previous day [Hitwise, 2006]
  • 130% increase in unique visits to compared to average of 4 previous Sundays [comScore, 2006b]
  • 400% increase between midnight and noon on Monday, however, which site the increase occured on is not�listed�[Horovitz, 2006b]
  • Millions of people ended up watching the ads on the various sites [Horovitz, 2006b]


Pre-ad anticipation was high, with the Budlight and Budweiser ads the most looked forward to by 68% of comScore survey respondants [comScore, 2006a]. The primer, like many of the ads on this day, was basically the fun, sometimes intelligent, self-referential storyworld that the ad created. Viewers wanted to stay in that world, be in it again. Although there was no URL referral at all in any of the ads, there was name of each brand and the Anheuser-Busch name in the online ads. A name is enough for viewers to search for a site. I think the AB name in the online versions and the known name contributed to the AB site being visited. Considering the ads are targeting particular viewers to drive them a particular product, BudLight or Budweiser, it seems that a URL would of been a necessary step to ensure the viewers went to the appropriate site.

The rewards. Tim Murphy, senior director of creative development at Anheuser-Busch:

“In previous years, we focused mainly on driving adult consumers to our websites to view the ads, but this year we wanted to enhance the online video experience and provide consumers with greater flexibility and control over content and where they could obtain it.” [Anheuser-Busch, 2006]

Rewards are obviously seen by many to be providing the content, letting the consumer “own” it in some way and then forward it own to increase their own status in some way. There wasn’t any ‘in-story’ reward however, how could they, with no ‘in-story’ or any referral? Anheuser-Busch relied on providing gifts in�entertaining ads and then the ability to access and own them. They didn’t do a CTA cycle really at all.
Primer: Stick/Caveman ad�(47 sec) went back in time to show a prehistoric man being penalised for not sending a bone via Fedex, even though it wasn’t invented yet. It is a joke that ends with slapstick humour.

Referral:� The end of the TVC has the voice-over of “next time, use Fedex” with a visual of ““.

Reward: Apparently you could download the ad online. At present there is no reference to the TVC at all.


  • Traffic up 13,000% from ad broadcast (at game end) to 2pm Monday (as compared to the same period last week) [Horovitz, 2006b]


As Joseph Jaffe notes, “[s]urprisingly people don’t tend to visit FEDEX on a Sunday, hence the giant spike in visits off a low base” [Jaffe, 2006]. Once again, this traffic wasn’t due to any great CTA effort. They benefited from the anticipation of their ad (15% of survey respondants were looking forward to the ad) and general mouse-ready viewers of the SuperBowl [comScore, 2006a]. The only primer was the quirky nature of the ad, which, just like CareerBuilder, is the creation of a fantastical world that viewers might want to see persisting. There was no in-story motivation given to go to the website, just a prompt to use Fedex when sending a package next time. Just a bit open-ended! A good referral tells you why you need to act, how and by when. The reward? I don’t see any, which means they have one black mark against their “reward” status.
Primer: ‘Pirate’ ad

Referral: “” on last screen.

Reward: No immediate acknowledgement visible now but a reference to an autograph campaign that echoes the ad.


  • Increase of 400% compared to the previous Sunday [Horovitz, 2006b]


The president of Sharpie, Rory Leyden admitted that the website, the connection between the ad and the website “was something we didn’t think much about” [Horovitz, 2006b]. The pirate ad was a good creative, funny storyworld but this isn’t a cross-media ad. Good that they provided a URL though.
Primer: Gondala�ad starring Fabio in a mock-shampoo ad that turns tragic when Fabio ages in seconds.

Referral: “Life comes at you fast” voice-over and super with voice-over of “Be ready with Nationwide, investment, reitrement, insurance” and a super of

Reward: Site, at present, provides no acknowledgement of my journey and doesn’t link to anything to do with the ad. Can view ad online and says that they will provide info on how they were made if I came back soon.


  • 162% site surge on Monday, compared with a typical Monday [Horovitz, 2006b]
  • 17,500 downloads of the ad [Horovitz, 2006b]
  • 90% of visitors since Sunday were new to the site [Horovitz, 2006b]


A quiry fun ad with little reason go to the website and no ‘in-story’ continuation. This ad screams: “We’re doing these quirky ads to get you to give us your money. We’re not interested in giving you anything else.” At least they provided a URL.
Primer: Mr. Nimoy cannot do his Vulcan greeting for a Star Trek convention, luckily aleve enables him to do it.

Referral: End screen shows in tiny writing:

Reward: site confirms my journey in that it persists the theme of AleveGoodNews. At present there is no mention of the ad, or image of Nimoy or the ability to download it.


  • 101% increase in Web traffic between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., vs. the same day a year ago [Horovtiz, 2006b]


Even though they had a great character is Nimoy, and they provided a URL, they didn’t provide any link between the URL and what is there with Nimoy. The goodnews persists but not what is one of the interesting elements of the ad. There is little motivation to go to the site and no reward for taking the journey. The fact that this ad had a URL but still little website traffic shows that viewers were not just clicking on any old site just because they could. They needed a motivation to do so and Aleve just wasn’t a brand that could rely on itself to do that.
11. ESPN
Primer: Ran two ads: ‘Mobile’ and ‘Mobile Heaven’ has the primer “welcome to sports heaven” as a motivation to sign up with ESPN mobile, but no primer to go to the website.

Referral: no referral.

Reward: no reward as I can see.


  • More than a million additional viewers at its website in the 15 hours following the game, vs. the same period on a normal Sunday to Monday [Horovitz, 2006b]


There is no cross-media campaign here, just good targeting of sports fans.

Primer: Escalade ad (60 secs) shows a fashion show with the new cadillac emerging from the runway and being as desirable as all the models and their clothes.

Referral: no referral.

Reward: I didn’t see any on the site, but I couldn’t get in!


  • 256% increase in unique visits compared with the average of 4 previous Sundays [comScore, 2006b]


I don’t consider this a cross-media campaign at all. People went to the site,, I presume because they wanted to associate with the brand further.
What they missed

Joseph, Hitwise and many places overlooked the Mission Impossible ad. The ad was not the beginning, but the middle of a chain of referrals. The ad held a clue in an online scavenger hunt that rewards the first 15,000 palyers with a “mystery prize”. The site and other places directed visitors a couple of weeks before the Super Bowl to The first clue, which wasn’t released until Tuesday 7th (a day later than it was supposed to), referred the newly signed-up agents to watch the Mission Impossible III Trailer, that was broadcast during SuperBowl XL:

The Super Bowl spot moves fast, but the best agents move faster. Ethan may have left his prints on this car – Google search the license plate for more information.

Obviously they had to watch it at iFilm or Google Video or one of the many places that supplied the video after the event. According to a duplication of the press release, Amy Powell, the vice president of interactive marketing, Paramount Pictures described the campaign:

Never before has anyone tried to orchestrate a scavenger hunt with the breadth of ours and the diversity of partners we have involved. The goal of the M:i:III Ultimate Mission is to allow agents around the world to engage with the themes of Mission: Impossible, embracing technology in the same way the franchise has for decades. The hunt combines the best of two worlds: fans of Tom Cruise and the franchise will now have the opportunity to get personally involved with the most exciting Mission so far, and fans of J.J. Abrams who’ve previously used the Internet to unlock some of the mysteries of Lost will get to take that passion to a new level.
(Paramount Pictures, 2006)

The lack of data about the Mission Impossible site-to-ad-to-Google traffic is just one example of the many cross-media referrals that are not being tracked. I’ve been trying to track traffic data from referrals in TV shows to websites with no avail. There really needs to be a cross-media system in place, and there probably is, but they’re only available to those that pay. I think that not having storyworld tracking across media�shows a big blind spot in understanding how entertainment is currently created and experienced.

Overall, I’m glad to see that the SuperBowl XL campaigns that I felt adhered to the 3-step CTA Cyle enjoyed the most success.


Anheuser-Busch (2006) ‘Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl Ads Score With Consumers On The Internet’,, 7 March [Online] Available at:

ComScore (2006a) ‘Advertisers Look To TV and Web to “XL” During This Year’s Super Bowl’,, 2 Feb [Online] Available at:

ComScore (2006b) ‘Super Bowl Ad Campaigns Spike Web Traffic’,, 7 Feb [Online] Available at:

Crain Communications Inc. (2006) 2006 Fact Pack: 4th Annual Guide to Advertising and Marketing, Ad, 27 Feb [Online] Available at:�[need to register]

Dena, C. in Giovagnoli, M. (2005) Fare Cross-Media: From Big Brother to Star Wars: Theory and Techniques of the Integrated and Distributed Use of Simultaneous Media, Dino Audino Editore, Roma.

Hitwise (2006) ‘Searches for “Super Bowl Ads” 14 Times Greater than Last Year’, Hitwise, 7 Feb�[Online] Available at:

Horovitz, B. (2006a) ”Magic fridge’ of Bud Light ices an advertising win’,, 6 Feb�[Online] Available at:

Horovitz, B. (2006b) ‘Super Bowl ad watchers make a run for Web’, USA Today, 6 Feb [Online] Available at:

Internet Retailer (2004) ‘Mitsubishi drives its ad campaign entirely to the web’, Internet Retailer, 5 Aug [Online] Available at:

Jaffe, J. (2004) ‘Case Study: “See What Happens”‘, iMedia Connection, 18 Feb [Online] Available at:

Jaffe, J. (2006) ‘jaffe’s URL crusade continues…’ Jaffe Juice, 9 Feb [Online] Available at:

Paramount Pictures (2006) ”Mission: Impossible III’ Super Bowl Spot Kicks Off ‘The Ultimate Mission’ Scavenger Hunt’, Yahoo! Finance, 3 Feb [Online] Available at: