Marketers buy into the Super Bowl telecast because it is the one time of the year when consumers are actually tuning in to commercials instead of muting the volume or fast-forwarding on their DVR.

Here’s an old school recipe for success:

  • One part new product or service offering upgrade

  • A tear-inducing script (Tears can be a result of hilarity or a message that pulls at the heartstrings.)

  • One teaspoon of a timely message (Think Valentine’s Day and/or tax season.)

  • A cute animal or hot celebrity

  • A tease in the media

What’s missing in this day of 24/7 social, mobile consumers?

Mobile calls to action. Why? It takes that near-perfect, talked-about-for-days ad and extends its value. By including, for instance, an SMS call to action and engaging with consumers, companies can ultimately build remarket-able databases that tie directly to their loyalty programs and enable ongoing communication. What a great catch for marketers---just as game-changing as Mario Manningham’s for the Giants in the fourth quarter this past Sunday.

In the days before the game, Harris Interactive said that more than 60 percent of viewers would be watching with its mobile devices in hand to connect with friends, check ESPN, and browse the homepage and landing pages of brands with the best commercials. But one problem with these spots was the sheer reliance on simple URLs, some of which weren’t even mobile-specific. Other ads directed consumers to social media prompts via a plethora of hashtags (Audi's #SoLongVampires, Bud Light's #MakeItPlatinum, H&M's #BeckhamForHim, etc.).

Hashtags are catchy and make people want to join in on the trending. They create a following, for a short time at least. But they are hard to track and measure for true value. Instead of (or in addition to) a hashtag, why not include an SMS option for viewers to receive more information? Doing so also creates a sense of exclusivity, and allows consumers to be part of a special network of people who receive deals, coupons and other special treatments that promote customer loyalty, repeat shopping and increased purchase value.

Here are five ads that could have been improved with a simple mobile call to action:

The brand teased viewers that its “NSFTV” ads were available online if they scanned a QR code. They could have used an SMS in addition to a QR code (which is sometimes hard for viewers to see, much less get them to fire up their scanner and capture the code onscreen before it disappears) to "see more now" that would have brought users to the coveted "Too Hot For TV Internet Only" versions. By offering multiple means of engagement, GoDaddy could have increased its reach.

This ad was racy and tied in with the upcoming “holiday of love.” Perfect timing, of course. However, it could have used a text campaign for a Valentine’s Day coupon instead of just posting and trusting that consumers will travel there on their own without an incentive. An initiative like this could have led to Teleflora building an opt-in list of people who like to give flowers to their loved ones and would probably do so again on their birthday or anniversary.

Coca-Cola and Audi.
Both brands had multiple spots but did not set up the next ad. For instance, they could have created some type of scavenger hunt or delivered a message, such as, "prepare to use Shazam next time you see Coke,” to tie-in the experience across ads.

Best Buy.
This ad was entirely about mobile innovation, yet had no mobile innovation of its own. It did not embrace the very technologies that it was commending. There was a real missed opportunity to expand on each of the founders’ stories for more consumer inclusion and engagement.

The movie clips (Transformers, The Avengers, John Carter, etc.).
These movies were built up as the blockbusters for 2012, yet there was no incentive to check them out beyond the digital effects and big-name celebrity rosters. Think of the perks for both brands and consumers if they had incorporated a mobile campaign to see "Sneak Peaks" or an opportunity to win tickets, all while building a database of future prospects. Here's the preview of Transformers:

We are getting there. The opportunity for marketers to take their campaigns to the next level with mobile components is right around the corner.

Unfortunately, the ball was dropped in a number of places during this Super Bowl. Let’s tip our hats to the Giants and to the brands that are taking that step toward calls to action within ads, and let’s start preparing for next year.

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5 Super Bowl XVLI Ads That Could Have Been Improved with a Mobile Call-to-Action

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Jeff Hasen is chief marketing officer for Hipcricket in Kirkland, WA. One of the most frequently quoted voices in mobile and social media, Jeff is the author of the upcoming book, Mobilized Marketing: Driving Sales, Engagement and Loyalty Through Mobile Devices, due in Spring 2012 from Wiley Publishing. You can reach him at