The Performance Beacon

The web performance, analytics, and optimization blog

Super Bowl Revisited: Did You Support Your Ad? Testing and Optimizing for Guaranteed Performance

For many organizations that participate in Super Bowl advertising, their ads equate to art and can make or break business for the remainder of the year. And while some organizations will spend months – if not an entire year or more – planning the content and message included in their Super Bowl ad, many fail to take into account the resulting increase in website traffic.

Creating a contemporary, memorable ad is no doubt important. But without the proper support for the corresponding website, efforts here can go to waste. Today, most viewers have multiple screens at their fingertips: one set to the big game, with mobile devices nearby for web browsing and other various activities. This draws a direct correlation between the visual ad, which then translates into increased website traffic. If consumers are unable to access the page, they’ll simply find another platform that spurs their interest.

For this reason, load testing to ensure proper performance is critical – especially during peak usage periods like Super Bowl Sunday. Let’s take a look at the case of Super Bowl ads and how your brand can test and optimize its web page to help guarantee top-tier performance.

Super Bowl ads: Boosted traffic worth the price
It’s no secret that Super Bowl Sunday is a big event, even for those who aren’t football fans. According to Forbes, the 2013 Super Bowl was watched by over 108 million people. However, studies show that half of that audience – approximately 54 million viewers – flipped the game on just to watch the ads. And for many businesses, the steep price of a spot during the event is worth the investment.

Forbes found that during the 2014 game, a 30-second spot cost advertisers a staggering $4 million, while a 60-second ad came with an $8 million price tag. This doesn’t include the cost of making the actual commercial, which for many brands could total several thousand dollars or more to create something their customers and other viewers will not only enjoy, but remember.

So what exactly makes these spots so valuable? Besides the fact that companies have the opportunity to capture the attention of millions of potential clients, research shows that those that advertise during the big game are guaranteed to see a staggering increase in their website traffic.

Adobe recently put this to the test, comparing website traffic from typical days to that of event days. Findings showed that overall, advertisers could count on a 20 percent increase in visits on game day, as well as higher traffic throughout the following week. Traffic doubled on the mobile platform alone.

“These data points are compelling, but most striking in the percentage of online videos accessed by tablets and mobile phones, reaching 16 percent on a day with a major sporting event – a 100 percent increase compared to a typical day in sports,” Adobe stated.

Not prepared for the boost in traffic
History has proven that in past years, retailers simply weren’t ready for the boost in traffic related to their ads, and as a result, consumers were unable to visit their websites. According to Yottaa, 13 advertisers’ websites crashed or performed poorly after their ads were shown during Super Bowl XLVII.

One of these was beverage giant Coca-Cola, which asked viewers to vote for the best ending for their ad on an interactive website. The platform was unable to handle all the requests, resulting in page load times of more than a minute – longer than the commercial itself. In addition to problems with its Super Bowl ad voting page, the company also saw only 92 percent uptime on its main homepage that day. Due to the poor experience, users weren’t happy and let the company know via Twitter and other multiple avenues.

Planning ahead for traffic spikes
In order to avoid a similar fate, your company must plan ahead for the spike in traffic that will come alongside its Super Bowl ad. There are a number of actions brands can take to adequately prepare, including:

  • Simplifying website content: One way to optimize your website to ensure enhanced performance is to do away with the unnecessary bells and whistles and keep only the most important content on the page. When users visit a page, load-intensive features like videos can slow down page load times, particularly when there is a spike in usage. Removing these items – especially on the day of the event – can help boost page load times and reduce the chances of a crash.
  • Reduce infrastructure requests: Take a look at the IP addresses that request access to the website and blocking those that might be unnecessary. For instance, if your company’s customers are only based in the North America, specialized software can help block requests from other regions. This helps ensure that the platform is available to Super Bowl viewers.
  • Leverage historical comparisons: Another way to ensure readiness is to examine traffic levels during previous years and use these as a benchmark. For example, if your brand saw a 15 percent boost in online traffic during last year’s big game, the company should prepare for the same level – if not more – this year. With these metrics, the organization can work with its service provider to scale their resources to the appropriate level.

Ensure readiness with performance testing
These strategies are helpful, but best way to prepare for the boost in traffic is with performance and load testing. Using solutions like SOASTA CloudTest and mPulse can help brands visualize their website capabilities, how many users they are able to support, and where the bulk of their users are located geographically. Performance testing ahead of time can help decision-makers pinpoint areas in need of improvement, and adjust their websites to guarantee that come game day, they’re ready for the increase in traffic.

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