Marketing Briefing: Will Coinbase’s Super Bowl QR code stunt make marketers rethink their ROI metrics for the big game?

illustration of a girl balancing spinning coins on a tightrope

A QR code bounced across television screens (think a classic DVD screensaver) for 60-seconds on Super Bowl Sunday.

The odd spot, created by Accenture Interactive, was an ad for Coinbase, one of the many crypto companies advertising during the Big Game. And while the ad ranked dead last in USA Today’s Ad Meter, much of the post-game chatter was about that very spot as the company said 20 million people used the QR code to visit the company’s website in a single minute. 

With those quickly publicized results, it’s easy to imagine marketers wanting some version of that for themselves. They see Coinbase’s immediate metrics from its Super Bowl spot — it’s much easier to track the use of a QR code than brand awareness or entertainment value — and wonder how they can do the same. They might ask, “What’s our QR code? How can we measure our return on investment like Coinbase?” 

Maybe it changes what marketers want their ROI from a Super Bowl ad to be altogether. Instead of being an entertaining way to make people pay attention to their brand or all about having the buzzy ad that breaks through in some way, the Super Bowl becomes all about a call to action of some kind that they can track and prove as worthy of the exorbitant prices for 30-second spots. 

“Every marketer has different goals, but the obvious benefit from Super Bowl advertising is brand lift,” said Nathan Young, head of strategy at Ethos, a division of Deloitte Digital, when asked about Super Bowl ROI. “The format — a big splashy :30 — greatly advantages newcomers who are able to create breakthrough, discussion generating moments. It’s a fantastic first impression.”

Young continued: “It’s a bit surprising more Super Bowl ads don’t have [calls to action] at the end. If you can get a viewer to hit a landing page or participate in a hashtag, you can follow up with cheaper, more targeted digital ads.”

Others are more critical of the possible push to move Super Bowl ads from entertainment to more calls to action. Ask any marketer why they pay the cost of a 30-second spot and you’ll hear how it’s the one night of the year that people look forward to the ads and much of that has to do with the entertainment value. 

“I think we’re getting confused between disruption and what breaks through in advertising,” said Aisha Hakim, associate creative director at Preacher, adding that the QR code didn’t lead to an experience of any kind but a website. “I don’t think the Super Bowl is a place for those harder working ads. Is it not supposed to be entertainment anymore?” 

Whether or not marketers will aim to add more calls to action to ads during big cultural moments like the Super Bowl is still yet to be determined. Measurement has only become more important for marketers. With chief financial officers questioning what’s spent more and more, seeing marketing as a cost center rather than a profit center, it’s easy to see how this could become an appealing strategy for marketers desperate to prove their return on investment. 

“I don’t think they will do QR codes specifically, but I do think they will start to rethink TV ad strategy,” said Craig Elimeliah, executive creative director at VMLY&R, when asked about more calls to action like Coinbase’s QR code. “The metaverse will start to dictate how TV, OOH and other more traditional channels allow you to enter it creatively.”

3 Questions with Voya vp of enterprise brand, advertising and media Jim Cowsert

Given Voya is a financial services company, have there been any strategy changes due to Covid?

We did lean in in terms of offering a lot of insights around Covid, specifically, tools and services and what we were doing as a company to assist people through. At the same time, we continue to aggressively monitor, not only through our media strategy, but also in terms of our communication to see that it still resonates. We found that our messaging was fairly evergreen throughout. We didn’t really need to change. 

With everyone gravitating to spending more time online, what changes did you make to meet shoppers there?

Because our goal has been broad brand awareness initially, we’ve done a lot of media mix modeling that shows that video works the strongest for us to do that, whether it’s linear, digital or a combination. We know we can quickly build audience on linear still, particularly amongst an older target, which we have. It’s still the most effective way to quickly build awareness. But underneath that, we’re doing streaming, OTT, YouTube, so there are a lot of video channels we utilize. 

Any effort to reach younger people coming into the workforce?

What’s changing structurally is we are doubling down and more focused as we’ve aligned business with workplaces. Soon as anyone starts a job, you want to start building that relationship. So it’s not just those people that have assets that are 45 to 54. But also, how do you start talking to a younger demographic as well. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

As the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic continues, parents are still struggling to strike the right balance between work life and home life. From interrupted video calls to fluctuating return to office and school plans, parents are reaching their breaking point. According to new research from Bright Horizons childcare company, disruption in child care is a prominent stressor for parents working through the pandemic. Find more key details from the report below:

  • 70% of working parents surveyed said the continuity of in-person schooling or childcare is extremely important to their children’s well-being.
  • 62% of working parents who responded to this survey say the continuity of in-person schooling or childcare is very or extremely important to their ability to work.
  • 71% of working parents say that having their children out of child care or school is disruptive to their daily routines. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“I think we’re fairly confident that as people see real-world results the anxiety will diminish. This is a journey, of course, it’s not going to be perfect, right? Stuff like this [software proposals] gets to be good around [version] 3.0.”

— David Temkin, director, product management, ads privacy and user trust at Google, told IAB attendees, aiming to reassure them about Google’s latest Privacy Sandbox rollout Topics.

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