The One Super Bowl Ad We Haven't Talked About
By: Gary J. Nix | Reading Time: 4 min
In case you are new to the United States, or possibly Earth, the 50th annual Amazing American Handball Tournament otherwise known as Super Bowl 50 took place this past weekend. Super Bowl weekend is also known for being an advertising gold (or land depending on what happens the Monday after) mine, one where, this year, participating brands raced to pay $5 million dollars for thirty seconds of airtime in order to get into the faces of more than likely 100+ million people. However, rather than using this particular blog to speak about the best or worst ads, why this year's big game theme was comedy, what the most familiar Super Bowl advertisers may do or wax poetic about any formation that occurred over the weekend, I'd like bring light to the one ad most trades and the ad industry as a whole has yet to talk about.
This year, after a somewhat odd Jeff Goldblum Super Bowl XLIX commercial, our friends at Squarespace enlisted the services of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, more commonly known as Key & Peele for their big game campaign. On the surface, this is a great match for the Super Bowl since Key & Peele are well known for their football themed parodies and sketches. That fact notwithstanding, I would like to begin a conversation about this ad because Squarespace did not invest 5 million dollars per thirty seconds of Super Bowl time. What they did was conceptually interesting, potentially dangerous and would have cost, if they had used traditional big game advertising channels, somewhere in the range of 2.5 - 3 billion dollars. What they did instead is, they directly competed with the Super Bowl.
#RealTalk with Lee and Morris was livestreamed programming that featured big game commentators, Lee & Morris talking about the Super Bowl without access to the use of team names, players' names, the term Super Bowl or any other intellectual property owned by the NFL. They did, however, have a referee with whom they discussed plays, a chef to talk about big game food, the Piglet Bowl during halftime and more characters including Legal Larry, the on-site lawyer to make sure Lee, Morris and their guests didn't use certain terms that they could not legally use.
This is not to say that they did not provide game-time commentary. Lee & Morris provided some of the most insightful in-between-play color commentary you have ever heard and they let you know when something big happened in the game, in real time, purely based off of their reactions.
At its peak, 25,000 people watched this real time Squarespace ad and that may or may not sound like much especially when compared with the more common Super Bowl advertising we know and sometimes love and the 100+ million sets of eyes they are privy to. With that being said, I would argue that there was more conversation -- positive conversation -- around Squarespace's longer-form content as opposed to that around each individual Super Bowl spot. I'm sure that was, at least, the partial goal as such awareness can increase brand affinity, brand equity and brand lift -- all of which can be converted to sales down the line.
Furthermore, make no mistake, this piece of content was an ad and we rarely speak about 4-5 hour ads. This was an ad that competed with one of, if not the most watched television programs, advertising included, and that is very bold.
I do wonder though: will this be a new trend? Will other brands try this tactic? Did Squarespace get everything they wanted? Only time will tell. Or, perhaps, Super Bowl 51 will.