The Super Bowl, one of the largest and most-watched sporting events in the world, is truly a spectacle to behold. People from all over the world watch it for many reasons, one of which being the advertisements. Super Bowl ads have made a name for themselves as companies have attempted to start memes and create lasting impacts on their viewers by taking advantage of relevant trends, using humor, and having higher production value. Some feature celebrities, such as Squarespace’s ad starring Zendaya; others play on past successes like The Prince of Bel-Air. Several use connections to football to try to propel their brands to fame.
Though all companies pay the same amount for an ad (this year, the cost of running a 30-second ad was $6.5 million), the value they get out of them can vary significantly. This year, one ad stood out from the rest, one so bizarre and different that it became popular enough to crash a website—Coinbase’s ad.
The bouncing QR code was simple, modern, and unique, distinguishing itself from other celebrity cameos and nostalgia-driven advertisements. The black screen was a stark contrast from the vibrant and overly-saturated productions of most companies. The advertisement’s simplicity and distinctiveness helped contribute to its memorability and effectiveness.
The ad also used meme culture and suspense to its benefit, as the QR code was directly based on the bouncing DVD logos present on old CRTs. It has become a topic in memes for the logo to hit a corner of the screen, and this ad was punctuated by having the two collide as the ad approached its end. In addition, the mystery of the ad helped further generate clicks, or scans in this case, as the initial lack of branding (or anything else, for that matter) encouraged viewers to seek out more information about the ad. Overall, the ad had many factors that contributed to its incredible popularity.
Unfortunately, the ad was so successful that it crashed the Coinbase app as millions of people across the United States flipped out their phones to scan the bouncing code. The Coinbase website read, “Well, that was more popular than we thought,” and, “We need a quick time out, but don’t worry. We’ll email you when things are back to normal.” with a picture of the Doge meme at the bottom of the screen with the word “wow” directly above it.
Without diving into the hot debate that is cryptocurrencies and NFTs, the Coinbase ad made an impressionable impact on the commercial market; companies in the future will, without a doubt, look towards more unique advertising options. Meta, among other companies, was quick to hop on the Coinbase train, posting their own bouncing QR codes. Just as Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad set a precedent for the future of Super Bowl advertising, the success of Coinbase’s unique and clever ad strategy will undoubtedly shift the way companies approach commercial design.