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Seconds into the second half of Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens had San Francisco on the run, 28-6. And then the power went out inside the Superdome.
For 34 minutes, CBS commentators scrambled and vamped on live television while a record-setting worldwide audience waited for the game to resume -- and for the blockbuster commercials to air.
Sure, many of the ads had already been teased and tweeted online days in advance. But the viewers wanted their funny bones to be cracked and a few tears to be jerked. And the one ad that everyone seemed ready to hate (GoDaddy.com) was about to knock the lights out in terms of return on investment.
While the power was out, CBS did not run any of the scheduled ads, and said it would honor commitments to advertisers who ponied up an average of $4 million for a 30-second spot. Because of delays, the game ran until 10:45 p.m. ET.
The Nielsen company reported the game received a 48.1 percent rating, a one percent gain over last year. In big cities, a record 71 percent of households were tuned in.
But this year, the story was just as much about what was on the "second screen" as what was on the "big screen." The SocialGuide 2013 Super Bowl Advertising Effectiveness Report said the game generated 26,131,270 tweets, almost as many as the three 2012 presidential debates combined.
The clear favorite of the night was Budweiser's "Brotherhood" spot, which told the story of a horse trainer reunited with a Clydesdale he had raised as a foal. Budweiser has featured Cyldesdales in its Super Bowl advertising campaigns for years. The spot won 43 percent of the vote in our online reader poll as of early Tuesday, ranked first in USA Today's Ad Meter, and stood out as an overall critic's pick.
Another ad that generated a lot of chatter was Ram's "Farmer" ad. In it, a recording of deceased conservative radio personality Paul Harvey's 1978 "God Made a Farmer" speech to the Future Farmers of America played over moving and resolute images of American farms and farmers. The ad received 30 percent of our online reader vote. It was also third in USA Today's Ad Meter, and ranked fifth for most tweeted hashtag, #GodMadeAFarmer.
Another clean spot that left its mark on viewer's hearts was Tide's "Miracle Stain," in which a fan spills sauce on his shirt in the shape of Joe Montana. The shirt becomes a mecca for the football faithful, until his partner washes the shirt with Tide. The ad ranked third in our online poll and was second in USA Today's results. It also received the most positive social media mentions of the ads of the night, with a 59 percent net sentiment score.
Another gauge of audience interest is the annual results released by TiVo Research and Analytics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of TiVo Inc. The findings measure which ads viewers hit the "play" button on instead of fast-forwarding. Taco Bell's "Viva Young" was first, followed by Doritos "Goat for Sale," Hyundai Santa Fe's "Team," Doritos "Fashionista Daddy" and GoDaddy.com's "Perfect Match."
GoDaddy's ad was panned by critics and spurned at the polls by online voters, but the "sex sells" play paid off yet again for the domain name registration company.
"People hate GoDaddy ads because they go for the cheap sell," said Peter Cote, Principal Creative Partners at the Conscious Minds agency. "They are attention grabbing, but not particularly good."
Some critics saw the concept of the unnervingly long kiss between model Bar Refaeli and a techie geek as a savvy tactic. "Smart is sexy is so on trend," said Havas PR CEO Marian Salzman.
Others found zero sex appeal in the awkward kiss, or the ad itself. "The idea to do something new was good, as was the novelty of adding brains to the familiar theme of "GoDaddy always has 'hot' women in their ads," said Michal Strahilevitz, a professor of marketing at Golden Gate University. "This looked like two actors cast for their looks -- in one case mega attractive, in another case mega-not -- doing exactly what the director asked them to do."
An ad that's so unnerving that you can't turn away is exactly the point when the main goal is establishing name recognition. "I suspect that even those who object can't readily name a competitor," said Randy Raggio, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Richmond.
GoDaddy's "Perfect Match" commercial didn't crack TiVo's top 10 list and rated at the bottom of USA Today's ad report card. It only garnered only 2 percent of the votes in our online reader poll. The ad received 255,121 social mentions, data from Networked Insights shows, making it the number one most discussed ad of the game. However, it also received the most negative social media reaction, according to the same measurement, with a -11 percent net sentiment.
But the people punching the poll buttons and sending the tweets weren't the same ones clicking on GoDaddy's website during the game.
GoDaddy reported more new customers and more new sales from the Super Bowl ad last night than any other Super Bowl campaign in the company's history. The privately held company declined to release exact figures, but Elizabeth Dirscoll, vice president of GoDaddy public relations, said they were beating last year by "a wide margin."
History has taught them their strategy works, and they've stuck to it. The first year GoDaddy ran a Super Bowl ad, it was salacious, and comScore released data that said it boosted traffic to the then-relatively unknown domain name registration company 378 percent over the previous four Sundays.
"When we started, few people even knew what a domain name was. We understood we couldn't explain it in a 30-second commercial, so we branded our name across the chest of a GoDaddy girl and it worked," said Barb Rechterman, GoDaddy chief marketing officer . "That formula delivered tremendous results for us, helping grow our new domain name market share from 16 percent to 25 percent almost overnight."
"Not all of our ads are loved by the critics and that's just fine with us," she added. "We're looking to grab attention, not win awards."