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Super Bowl Web Traffic Blitzes Advertisers

Super Bowl Web traffic crushed sites from Coca-Cola, Doritos and other brands that blended interactive marketing with televised commercials. Online statistics show that site design proved just as important as network capacity.

Coke's ad featured three teams "lost" in the desert and gave viewers the chance to vote for which should find the secret cache of Cokes. After the game, Coke ran the commercial's coda: another ad revealing which team got the soda (the showgirls).

"Coke kind of stuck its neck out with a very social campaign," Grubin said. "They had people come in and vote and it was very interactive, so there were a lot of scripts and links to Facebook and other third parties, and a lot of objects that had to be downloaded and a very high density of graphics. It was a beautiful site; if you looked at it before the game it worked well."

However, response times of 20 seconds to 30 seconds during the hot times right after Coke's ad aired drove away many customers; others never got a reply at all.

"Some of our testing nodes came back with no data because, if they don't hear back 60 seconds after a request, they assume it failed," Compuware's Grubin said.

The voting function that was the core of the campaign was down periodically during the game, as were video features, according to Mashable. Nevertheless, the campaign generated more than 11 million "fan engagements" and more than 86,000 mentions of the campaign on Twitter and other networks, Coke told the New York Times.

In total, the football game and the ads in it generated more than 24 million online conversations during the game, according to Networked Insights.

The brands that had the quickest-responding numbers had sites were far lighter than the bottom three, and minimized the number of third-party hosts that had to be tied in to home page requests.

Go Daddy managed a response time of 0.873 seconds for a site with 10 hosts and 35 objects. It also apparently didn't excite viewers enough with its ad to send them to its site, though the ad--which featured a supermodel making out with a geek--was among the most-discussed during and after the game, but didn't draw huge in-game traffic spikes.

Paramount Studios was the only other site to average response times under a second, at 0.97 seconds, with just three host contacts and 41 light-ish objects required to display the page.

"It really comes down to site design and what you're making the user wait for when the page loads," Grubin said. "Almost all the advertisers used CDNs to help spread the load and had probably increased their own capacity, too, so just the speed of the network or number of requests wasn't the thing that made the difference." Kevin Fogarty is a freelance writer covering networking, security, virtualization, cloud computing, big data and IT innovation. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, CNN.com, CIO, Computerworld, Network World and other leading IT publications. View Full Bio

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