Esurance Wins the Twitter Bowl

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*article originally posted on The Wall Street Journal

Ads featuring puppies and babies typically guarantee buzz on Super Bowl Sunday. But offering cash works just as well, as online insurance company Esurance showed this weekend.

The unit of Allstate Corp. was the most-tweeted brand of Super Bowl night, with a total of 1.9 million posts on Twitter, TWTR -0.22% according to Nielsen Co., despite the fact that Esurance didn’t buy an ad during the game broadcast.

Instead, Esurance bought the ad slot appearing immediately after the game and used its time to offer $1.5 million to anyone who tweeted hashtag #EsuranceSave30. Its logic, as outlined by actor John Krasinski during the commercial, was that Esurance saved $1.5 million, or about 30%, by buying after the game, and its customers could look forward to similar savings.

Advertisers that bought time during the game forked over roughly $4 million for 30-second spots.

As of early Monday, Esurance says, 2.391 million tweets with the hashtag had appeared. The marketing arm of cloud-software company Salesforce, which had been tracking all the social-media conversations happening around the game, said that Esurance had the most-used brand hashtag of the Super Bowl.

The game was watched by an average of 111.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen. That set a record for viewership of a U.S. television show, beating out the 2012 Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Viewership grew through the first half, and didn’t fall off significantly even as it turned into a blowout. The segment of the game from 9:30 p.m. EST onward earned a rating only 5% lower than the total game, according to broadcaster Fox.

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