Signup Successful!

Thanks for signing up for the BlackBean newsletter!

Why was the Coinbase Super Bowl ad so effective?

2022-05-023 min readMarketing

The Super Bowl is over, and the results are in. Yes, the Rams won, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about ads.

Perhaps the only time of year where advertising is celebrated instead of denigrated, the Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event of the year couched by the biggest-budget commercials of the year. What kind of budget are we talking about? Experts say this year’s 30-second placements cost $6.5 million, and that’s just to secure the spot. Production costs included, the priciest ads may have totalled tens of millions of dollars in spend.

Every year we get breakdowns of the best and worst ads. My personal pick for the worst ad is the Avocados from Mexico promotion. The ad itself was fine — good even! But given the news earlier in the day that the US would cease the import of Mexican avocados, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

As for the winner? It’s this minimalist ad from Coinbase, a popular crypto app.

The 60-second placement ($13 million, let’s remember) generated 20 million views to Coinbase’s landing page. It offered $15 worth of bitcoin for free for new sign-ups and $3M in prizes for existing users, temporarily crashing their app and website due to extreme demand.

A little marketing napkin math suggests an easy path to profitability for Coinbase. The simple ad probably cost about $18M, including buying the TV spot, assembling the creative, and paying out prizes. Coinbase has a complex fee system that charges for deposits, withdrawals, and other account services. To break even on the initial advertising investment, they’d need to collect something like $20 in fees from about 900,000 new users, assuming a 10% sign-up rate. This is the equivalent of about eight small (under $100) deposits, or two $1,000 deposits. One year ago, Coinbase reported the average monthly deposit size at $529.

It seems likely based on the volume of new users and the estimated cost of the ad that Coinbase will make a healthy profit off this campaign over the following calendar year, even if the number of new users was only a few percent of landing page visitors.

But what made it so effective?

I can think of two main factors.

  1. First, the ad is unique among its competitors. Think of all Super Bowl 2022 ads as a single set. Almost all of them feature fantastical narratives and big-name star power. Then there’s this one black screen with a bouncing QR code that lasts a full minute. Amid sensory overload, Coinbase offered sensory deprivation. Immediately, the ad has an impact. If every ad followed the same model of simplicity, all of them would fail. Because only one went for the minimalist play, it succeeded.

  2. Finally, the ad plays on nostalgia. No, it’s not the 80s nostalgia that fuels endless Ghost Busters reboots. It’s 2000s nostalgia (yeah, I feel old, too). That colourful bouncing box is familiar to anyone whose DVD player had a screensaver. It was lampooned on The Office. It’s one of those funny little things that people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s will remember, but younger and older people probably won’t. As Coinbase’s primary audience would be millennials with enough financial stability to invest, it seems well-targeted nostalgia.


B2B Marketing Blog

We like to stay current by keeping you current. Our B2B marketing blog covers topics ranging from technical SEO to thought leadership and company culture. Check out some of our most recent content here. We bet you'll learn something new!

Your email has been sent!

Your email has successfully been sent, we will get back to you as soon as possible!

Need a quote for a project? get in touch...

We’ve found that we deliver the greatest value to our clients when we establish ongoing relationships that allow us to materially contribute to their long‑term success. If there’s an opportunity to work together, great. If not, we’ll point you in the right direction.