By Samuel Greengard
For the average football fan, the Super Bowl ended with a 34-31 score in favor of the Baltimore Ravens. However, for advertisers that spent millions of dollars producing commercials and buying advertising time, success was measured in ratings and clicks. And technology performance analysis firm Compuware found that, as expected, some companies scored touchdowns while others fumbled.
“The Super Bowl generated peak volumes of online activity,” says Stephen Pierzchala, technology strategist for Compuware Center of Excellence. “Viewers are increasingly using second screens—tablets, smartphones and laptops—while they watch the game. Advertisers are attempting to create an interactive element that brings television and the online world together.”
Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl represents a key opportunity for advertisers bent on building a brand. “There is a lot at stake, and a number of huge rivalries exist,” he notes. Among them: Coke versus Pepsi, Audi versus Mercedes-Benz and Universal Pictures versus. Paramount. Although some advertisers’ sites performed flawlessly, others succumbed to peak traffic.
Brands posting the slowest page-load times throughout the game included Doritos, Coca-Cola and Universal. As for the head-to-head competition, the analysis showed that Pepsi, Mercedes-Benz and Paramount beat the performance of their rivals in regard to average page-load times.
In the Coke versus Pepsi challenge, Compuware noted that the two companies took a fundamentally different game strategy. Pepsi opted to put its focus on the halftime show, while Coca-Cola “took a bigger risk by running an interactive contest during the game,” Pierzchala explains. This resulted in load times averaging four to five times slower for Coke.
Coca-Cola’s bold move was both a blessing and a curse. “At times, Coke was off the charts in terms of traffic,” he notes. “Yet, even taking proactive steps to accommodate the traffic, Coke wasn’t able to absorb all the visitors. While the slow Website isn’t likely to impact sales, it certainly wasn’t what Coke was seeking in terms of branding.” The best ways to describe the situation, he says, is a “success-failure.”
Compuware monitored the advertiser’s sites at five-minute intervals during a six-hour period. A number of factors contributed to performance problems. These included: external issues related to third-party services and content delivery network (CDN) utilization, design issues such as the use of rich media, and the use of heavy-weight plug-ins at some sites.
Another consideration, Pierzchala says, was that some advertisers used the same content delivery providers to manage sites. “If you get two or three advertisers using the same provider, you wind up with the perfect storm, and it impacts everyone’s performance,” he adds.
Pierzchala recommends that any company advertising and driving traffic to a Website—particularly during peak periods—understand what they are getting into before they sign up with a CDN provider. “It’s important to know whether the company has load tested a site and who else is going to be on your network at the same time,” he points out.
In some cases, it’s also necessary to eschew certain features in order to deliver a high level of performance. “There’s a lot involved in ensuring that Websites perform optimally and provide visitors with an exceptional experience,” he concludes.