Reddit’s 5-Second Ad Was an Unlikely Super Bowl Winner

Anheuser-Busch, Frito-Lay and Huggies were among the companies that went to great lengths — and great expense — to make ambitious Super Bowl commercials.

They wrangled celebrities, including Bruce Springsteen, appearing in his first commercial, and worked around the restrictions of pandemic filming to produce spots worthy of the advertising industry’s biggest day.

And then there was Reddit.

The message board that had a hand in the GameStop frenzy that shook Wall Street made its Super Bowl commercial in just a few days. A mere five seconds in length, the ad flitted across TV screens so quickly that many viewers thought there must have been a glitch in the CBS game broadcast. And yet it became one of the most talked-about (and posted-about) commercials of the day.

The Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, an annual ranking from Northwestern University’s business school, reported shortly after the game on Sunday that Reddit’s commercial was among the most effective commercials of the game broadcast. The Kellogg School’s list measures the execution of the commercial, the quality of the attention it generates, its memorability and other factors.

The Reddit ad started out like a clichéd car commercial, with two S.U.V.s racing across the desert. Then the signal seemed to fry, and Reddit’s orange-and-white alien-head logo commandeered the screen, followed by a lengthy printed statement that left viewers scrambling to grab a photo or screenshot.

“Wow, this actually worked,” read the message’s headline, a reference to Reddit’s appearance in its first Super Bowl commercial.

GameStop vs. Wall Street

Let Us Help You Understand

    • Shares in GameStop, the video retailer, have crashed from their January highs, which were driven by memes on social media.
    • Amateur traders egging on one another on Reddit bet heavily on shares of the company in January, sending the price up more than 1,700 percent at one point.
    • The wave was in part aimed at hurting large hedge funds that had been short selling — betting against — GameStop stock. Some of those funds experienced huge losses as a result.
    • But many of the individual investors who pumped up the stock could lose huge amounts of money, too. Some believe the price will go back up and are refusing to sell, even as the share price has collapsed.
    • Now, regulators are looking into how the rally started and whether new rules should be created because of it.

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