Leveraging Superbowl XLVIII for PPC

If you are like me, you spent this past Superbowl Sunday scrolling through Twitter, following certain brands, and watching them engage with their fans (namely JCPenney drunk tweeting the game).

Leveraging real-time events for marketing purposes on social networks is no new phenomenon (remember the Oreo blackout?) But what about search? I couldn’t have been the only one going to Google immediately after the game to re-watch ads I may have missed. The Superbowl is often a time for brands and advertisers to test and try out new things on television and social, and this year, it seemed as though their PPC efforts were no different.

Here are a few things PPC marketers can learn about real-time marketing from the 2014 Superbowl PPC ads:

1. Test Altering ‘Call-to-Action’ Based on Timing of Event

Given the specific timing and unique audience for this event, calls-to-action in the PPC ads were different than then may have been on non-superbowl days (or even earlier in the day that Sunday.) Most PPC ads read something to the effect of, “View the Big Game Ad” rather than “Buy Now!” or “Learn More!”

In my opinion, H&M did the worst job of executing their PPC ads, which read “Buy Online.” Who wants to shop for clothing after eating their weight in chicken wings at 10 pm on a Sunday? Users searching for “superbowl 2014 ads” were more likely looking to re-watch the shirtless David Beckham commercial. Given the time of the search it would have made more sense to encourage them to re-watch the commercial and 6 out of the 9 ads listed encouraged users to “re-watch the commercial” in some capacity. Toyota took it one step further and incorporated sitelinks allowing users to watch the ad, share on Facebook, or follow them on FB and Google+. M&M also sent users directly to their YouTube channel rather than their website through their PPC ads.

2. Hashtags in PPC Ad Copy

Hashtags act as secondary vanity URLs in this example. 3 of the 9 ads listed above incorporate the hashtags used in their television commercials in their PPC ad copy as well. Many PPC marketers already perform display URL and ad copy testing, so why not do hashtag testing in PPC ad copy?

This would be a particularly interesting test, as we’re seeing increasingly more users spending time on platforms on their mobile phones while engaging in outside events (i.e. television broadcasts, concerts, etc.). I imagine many of those advertisers bid on hashtags directly during the event as well.

3. Cross-Channel Display/Vanity URLs

Incorporating relevant keywords into display URLs when possible is no new idea and makes a ton of sense: if a user is looking for “watch the Jaguar commercial,” it makes sense for your PPC ad destination URL to read something like “”

4 of the 9 ads on this SERPs page feature a vanity or unique destination URL that was actually used in the television commercial. Advertisers were able to create a more seamless user experience by carrying over creative/language from the TV into PPC ads, knowing that many searchers had just seen those same URLs in the commercials that were aired on TV.

In Conclusion

Given the specific timing and audience of this event, advertisers altered their PPC ads during and after the Superbowl. Many advertisers altered their calls-to-action based on the time timing of the event, inserted Hashtags used in their television commercials into their PPC ad copy, and tested the vanity URLs used in their offline efforts in their PPC ad display URLs. Many users watching the game were simultaneously on their mobile phones and tablets.  By using these strategies, advertisers (smartly) were able to stay in front of their audience regardless of if their eyes were honed in on the TV or their phones.

Do you think Superbowl PPC marketing efforts were effective this year? Why or why not?