This year’s Super Bowl was the most watched television event in U.S. history — and shattered previously held live streaming records — facts that make room for the big question: are Super Bowl ads worth it? Does having the largest captive audience of all time justify a $4.5 million price tag for 30 seconds of air time? (NBC just made $360 million in ad revenue, so the hosting networks would certainly say yes.)

Brands now know that commercials aren’t of the one and done variety. Those shelling out these massive checks know their work will be shared, picked apart, praised, scrutinized, and criticized on social media, in blog posts, in news articles, and on websites for days and weeks after that final whistle blows. It’s become more about how far the ad can travel online after the event — and often times leading up to the event — than about how its digested between plays on the field.

Because of that, we’re surprised to see so few brands taking advantage of the immersive possibilities of a full digital content experience.

Though big brands like Anheuser-Busch openly tout the value of a smart pre-game digital marketing strategy (“It’s not a commercial anymore, it’s a campaign and a strong digital plan is just as important as the Super Bowl ad-buy itself. Our pre-Super Bowl commercial release strategy has become extremely valuable for gaining momentum heading into Sunday,” said spokesman Nick Kelly), very few Super Bowl ads promote an experience beyond the ad itself, thus sticking to a more traditional approach to advertising — albeit with modern digital flourishes like hashtags, early releases on YouTube, and the hope and possibility of virality.

This all made website-building-collaborator Squarespace stand apart from the pack. The company released this trailer before kickoff, and used its game-time minute to mysteriously promote a website called, featuring actor/musician Jeff Bridges.

For those who follow the call-to-action and visit the advertised site, a streamable (and purchasable) new album from Bridges awaits. The site does something effective from both a marketing and storytelling perspective: it shows, rather than tells.

Dreaming With Jeff demonstrates what you can do with Squarespace (create beautiful, clean websites to host your digital projects and content, etc.), and gives visitors enough interesting content to encourage them to stick around for awhile. Some might very well choose to spend 40 minutes streaming the strangely interesting spoken word album (I did this. Worth it.), or maybe they’ll just take a couple additional minutes to watch the unaired video content featuring Bridges.

Squarespace’s effort felt complete by modern digital standards. The company took advantage of the biggest TV advertising day of the year, and used it to drive web viewership and encourage time spent on its site by way of an enticing example of what’s possible with the service. Not to mention, Jeff Bridges was a great grab. Who doesn’t want to hear from The Dude himself?

P&G’s #LikeAGirl spot for Always was another hit this year, and was seemingly engineered in reverse. What began as a 3+ minute piece of online content was scaled back into a one minute commercial in order to fit the confines of TV advertising. Same goes for Dodge’s Wisdom spot, which was cut down from 80 seconds to 60. Both of these videos were already viral sensations online, and were then repackaged for TV.

Though these examples don’t equate to a full-force digital content strategy, the connection between proven online virality and spending millions on a Super Bowl spot is growing stronger. Advertisers may be more willing to spend big bucks on something they already know will work. Brands used to take great care to keep their Super Bowl ad plans top secret, but the times, they are a changin’.


During future Super Bowls, it will be interesting to see if more brands attempt to drive viewers toward online digital content experiences that go beyond just one ad. We think it’d be a worthwhile venture for brands to explore, to ensure that the millions of dollars being spent are worth the price tag, and to ensure that the content lives on in a controlled environment where brands can directly appeal to sales goals.

So, back to the original question…is it worth it? We think it could be, if brands put time and energy into digital strategy and additional video content that helps that big Super Bowl ad live on in the intended and digitally versatile manner.