Coinbase’s simple Super Bowl ad crashed its website
The NFL’s Super Bowl is famous for its half-time advertisements. Over the years, the 30- to 60-second slots have hosted some of the most iconic ads like the “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” from deodorant brand Old Spice, and Apple’s “1984” Ridley Scott-produced Macintosh promo.
Super Bowl ads are big-budget items. According to AdAge, a 30-second slot for the 2022 Super Bowl ran a cool US$6.5 million, but brands consider the cost worth it for the sheer number of eyeballs that are glued to the screen through the broadcast. A SambaTV report shows that 36 million US households tuned into the Super Bowl this year, up 12 per cent from 2021. And that’s just the domestic market – these ads have such a wide reach that they become discussion points on global social media, too.
So, what do you do as a marketing team when you’ve purchased 60 seconds of airtime to the tune of around US$13 million? Do you hire big-name celebrities, actors, or singers to appear in your commercial, like so many other brands have done? Do you come up with a funny and memorable skit like Old Spice?
Coinbase marketing had a different idea. Their answer was to show a QR code bouncing around the screen like an old DVD player screensaver. The idea being that at least some people would scan it and be taken to an information resource many times larger in scope than what you can cram into 60 seconds.
It’s an advertisement that’s so simple, it actually stands out from the typical fast-paced, celebrity-packed, and big-budget promos typically aired at the Super Bowl.
That Coinbase bet paid off, and in the one minute the ad was on screens, over 20 million people scanned the QR code to be taken to Coinbase’s website, where new users could get $15 in free Bitcoin. This immediately overwhelmed the Website’s servers, causing users to report that they couldn’t use Coinbase’s site or app.
Chief Product Officer at Coinbase, Surojit Chatterjee, tweeted that it was “more traffic than we’ve ever encountered”, explaining that traffic had to be restricted for a few minutes to avoid further overwhelming the servers.
In a blog post, Coinbase Chief Marketing Officer, Kate Rouch explained what happened.
“Our engineering teams load-tested our site to handle millions of simultaneous hits,” she said. “The volume we experienced was astounding in comparison to our projections. We saw over 20M+ hits on our landing page in one minute — volume that was historic and unprecedented.”
Coinbase’s advertisement caught the attention of other brands, who mimicked the promo on Twitter. Rival crypto exchange, FTX, even posted their version, even though they also aired an advertisement at the Super Bowl.
Rouch explained that the campaign is called “WAGMI”, a popular saying in the crypto space, and an acronym for “We’re All Gonna Make It”. Writing of the inspiration behind the QR code advertisement, Rouch says that Coinbase “wanted to try something different” and that the “traditional highly produced Super Bowl advertising just didn’t feel inspiring”.
“Our core inspiration for the ad was the curiosity and intimidation we know many people have about crypto,” Rouch states. “We wanted to pique their interest by doing something different, something that’s never been done in the history of Super Bowl advertising — a playful, low production nod to a popular Internet meme that invites action and discussion both in the living room, and on social media.”
Two other crypto exchanges, FTX and Crypto.com also paid for advertising slots, with FTX enlisting comedian Larry David, and Crypto.com having professional basketball player LeBron James appear.