For all the planning and millions of dollars that go into the creation of Super Bowl commercials, arguably the best ad of the game last night was a tweet.
CBS's broadcast of the Super Bowl was thrown into confusion and delay in the third quarter on Sunday when power in half of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome went out, prompting a surge of attempts at humor on Twitter, temper tantrums on the sideline and a decision by the network to let commentators riff without commercial break.
When the game resumed, commercials did, too, but not before disrupting the Ravens' momentum in a blowout against the 49ers -- who scored their first touchdown only after the long interruption and scored another touchdown soon after. CBS even displayed a presumably unprecedented stat on the screen: "Total Yards Since Power Outage."
Baltimore ultimately held on to their lead and won the Super Bowl. But viewers and the network were distracted from the traditional game-and-ad spectacle -- if viewers stayed around instead of switching to the "Puppy Bowl" over on Animal Planet during the interlude. CBS seemed to repeat commercials that had already aired.
Some quick-thinking brands, however, jumped into the disarray. Bud Light and Speed Stick bid on promoted tweets pegged to the term "power outage," so people who searched for that phrase saw their tweets.
"Power out?" Oreo posted to Twitter. "No problem. You can still dunk in the dark." The tweet was retweeted 10,000 times within one hour.
The Oreo graphic was "designed, captioned and approved within minutes," according to Sarah Hofstetter, president of the cookie brand's digital agency of record, Dentsu-owned 360i. All the decisions were made in real time quickly because marketers and agency members were sitting together at a "mission control" center, or a social-media war room of sorts, at the agency's headquarters in the TriBeCa neighborhood of Manhattan. Among those who were there were two brand team members from Oreo, and nearly a dozen creatives, strategists, community managers and social-media listeners.
The agency acknowledged that it was able to make decisions so quickly because the Mondelez-owned cookie brand was a broadcaster advertiser in the Super Bowl, and so was closely monitoring chatter and interaction with consumers on all social media channels. It's arguable though, that 360i's simple little execution overshadowed Oreo's far more expensive TV ad, filled with stunts, that ran in the game before the blackout. That ad was done by independent shop Wieden & Kennedy.
A few other brands used the opportunity well, reacting quickly and with wit. Audi, whose spot ran before the blackout, used the power outage as an opportunity to take a jab at rival luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz -- sponsor of the Superdome in New Orleans. Mercedes-Benz USA remained mum on its Twitter feed and didn't respond to Audi's zinger.
Tide and VW posted cute, lighthearted messages pegged to the surprise occurrence, too.
Sending some LEDs to the @mbusa Superdome right now...— Audi (@Audi) February 4, 2013
Power out? No problem. twitter.com/Oreo/status/29…— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
Volkswagen USA (@VW) February 4, 2013
"Stadium authorities are investigating the cause of the power outage," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email. "We will have more information as it becomes available."
A spokesman for the Superdome issued a terse statement noting that power had been restored. "We sincerely apologize for the incident," he said.
And the official Super Bowl account noted that the 49ers have actually run into this problem before.