Creating the most buzz with your Super Bowl ad isn't easy. Brands and companies try a lot of different things to capture the attention of their audience during the most high-profile advertising event of the year. Advertisers pull out all of the stops, hoping to get people talking. Sure, there's a football game happening, but, let's be honest, most people stick around for the ads.
This year, the most-talked-about ad was a simple QR code that changed color as it bounced around the screen for 30 seconds. The ad was for Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, and when you scanned the code, it took you to a promotional page that promised you $15 of Bitcoin for creating an account.
Most of the buzz around the ad is about how simple and ingenious it was. For one, it was probably the least expensive Super Bowl ad to produce, despite costing a reported $7 million for a 30-second spot. How hard is it to generate a QR code that moves around a screen?
Second, it certainly made people curious. Humans are curious, by nature, and it's hard to resist the temptation to scan the code to figure out what it's about. In that sense, the ad was brilliant.
On the other hand, the ad was risky. If you didn't point your smartphone camera at the screen, you would never know the ad was for Coinbase. There was nothing else in the ad to give you context that your TV hadn't just gone bad. That's a chance Coinbase was willing to take, and it appears that it paid off.
There was just one problem--the ad was so successful that it generated more traffic than the company's app could handle, causing it to crash. You could argue that anytime you can drive more traffic than you can possibly handle, it's a good thing. Except, if you're a cryptocurrency exchange and your app crashes under the weight of a sudden influx of traffic, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
It's hard to prepare for every possible outcome, but that kind of seems like a no-brainer. If you're going to try to generate buzz and traffic to your website, make sure your website can handle it. Otherwise, you risk alienating the millions of new people you just introduced to your platform.
On the biggest stage ever, what should have been a massive win for Coinbase turned into a monumental fail. I'm not sure how else you can describe the fact that most of the stories about the ad are talking about the fact that the app crashed. That's not the sort of brand association any company would want, but especially not if your entire business is getting people to trust you with their financial resources.
First impressions are everything, which is why this ad is such a great case study. The first impression that millions of people had of Coinbase was a mysterious ad that made them curious. Then, when they did exactly what Coinbase wanted them to do (scan the QR code in the ad), the experience turned bad.
I guess that's technically the "second impression," but for millions of people, it's the one that will stick around when they think about Coinbase. It was a clever ad, but a poor experience. That's definitely not the reason any company wants to create buzz.