UPDATE: After this article was published, Vox supplied additional detail. Jonathan Hunt, VP-marketing at Vox Media, said its "Super Bowl commercial" will air in one market: Helena, Montana, a town of 30,000 people. It cost Vox $700, he added. That's a far cry from the $4.5 million companies are spending on average to buy a Super Bowl ad this year that runs nationwide. "We chose Helena because it's $700," he said. "It's a nice, thrifty experiment." Vox created the 30-second spot internally, he added. The ad will also run next Sunday on TheVerge.com and YouTube.
A rumor erupted on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that Vox Media had bought a Super Bowl commercial to promote its tech website The Verge. Apparently, The Verge published the commercial on its site prematurely and then took it down, but not before the world caught a glimpse and saved it.
"Yes, it's running during the Super Bowl," Fay Sliger, communications director at Vox Media, said in an email to Ad Age.
She declined to answer Ad Age's follow-up questions on whether it's a regional or national buy, the price of the ad and the agency behind the spot.
"Not commenting beyond that it's running during the Super Bowl," Ms. Sliger said.
NBC is averaging $4.5 million for 30 seconds of ad time during this year's Super Bowl, but that seems like a steep cost to promote a news website. Marketers each year dodge full sticker price by assembling a sprawl of regional buys on local cable systems or even just buying ad time during the game in key markets such as Los Angeles and New York. Often they "confirm" a Super Bowl ad while refusing to say whether it's a national commerical or something less.
Newcastle and American Family Insurance are explictly pursuing regional plays this year. Previous years have seen local Super Bowl advertisers from The Church of Scientology to a Georgia attorney, whose mind-blowing ad got national attention after the game.
NBC did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether Vox made a national buy.
Last month, Vox, which also publishes sports site SB Nation and news-explainer Vox.com, raised $46.5 million from equity investment firm General Atlantic.
The supposed Super Bowl spot is now on YouTube, but Ms. Sliger would not say whether this is, in fact, the commercial it plans to show during the broadcast, wherever it is that it plans to show it.