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Reddit’s route to becoming the unlikely winner of Super Bowl 2021

Reddit won the ‘Most Effective Viral Campaign’ category at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2021. Here, the team behind the winning entry reveal the secrets of this successful project...

The challenge

In the weeks before the 2021 Super Bowl, the power of online communities to drive real-world action was made abundantly clear as a group of Reddit underdogs took the financial world by storm.

We saw this embedded across multiple industries with publications like The Wall Street Journal profiling how the finance meme ‘We like the stock!’ spreads and amplifies on Reddit. We saw a sharp spike of Reddit-related conversations across radio and broadcast markets, reaching more than 6,000 mentions on January 28, 2021, alone.

As the velocity of the conversation continued to capture attention from every major news outlet, it became clear that Reddit’s response needed to be as meaningful as the moment the brand was having.

The strategy

With time and relevancy of the essence, Reddit leveraged the moment by going ’small’ on the big game, ’hacking the system’ with a brief five-second commercial that dominated the conversation on television’s biggest stage, celebrating the power of Reddit’s passionate communities while simultaneously shifting mass perceptions and sentiment.

The campaign

While other brands spent months of planning and millions of dollars on spots with huge celebrities and eye-popping special effects to try and breakthrough, Reddit’s five-second ad was conceived, presented, sold and produced in less than a week; ultimately becoming the “unlikely winner of Super Bowl LV,” according to The New York Times and dozens of other major publications.

And in true underdog fashion, this spot zagged against every possible shred of conventional Super Bowl advertising wisdom. No cute kids or talking dogs. No big stars or stunts. No famous songs or hilarious pratfalls. Just 11 lines of copy flickering on the screen for a fraction of a normal time slot.

Brief as it was, it stopped people in their tracks. They paused, rewound and actually read the entire thing. Posting and sharing it online, ultimately making it the most effective ad on the big game, according to Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review. The Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review uses ADPLAN to evaluate the effectiveness of a Super Bowl ad. The acronym stands for attention, distinction, positioning, linkage, amplification and net equity.

The results

Reddit hauled in a 98% positive social sentiment rate, drove over 90,000 user mentions, became the #1 searched ad of Super Bowl Sunday on Google and garnered coverage from 140+ unique media outlets, all leading to a staggering 6.5bn+ earned impressions. This created 25% more traffic on the site overall and the subreddit mentioned in the ad, r/SuperbOwl, also soared 1,000%. More importantly, the impressive feat further demonstrated the power that passionate communities can have when they come together around something they care about.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries 2021. Find out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.

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