Viral Esurance Commercial Draw Plenty of Attention, Good and Bad

John Krasinksi’s was the first face we saw in the aftermath of yesterday’s Super Bowl blowout, explaining that Esurance was proud to have saved $1.5 million just by airing its commercial immediately after the game, instead of during it. As the camera zoomed out, we saw that $1.5 million arranged like a coffee table, innocuously supporting Krasinski’s chips and guacamole. Then came the exciting news. All viewers had to do was tweet #EsuranceSave30 (a reference to the company’s 30% savings) for a chance to win $1.5 million.

Something was noticeably missing at the end of the spot. While sweepstakes, contests, and giveaways are usually followed up with a barely-intelligible explanation of rules and limitations, no such monologue appeared. Sure, a list appeared on Esurance’s website, but they were hardly restrictive. Entries are unlimited, tweets can say anything as long as they include #EsuranceSave30, and although a description of “inappropriate” tweets was included, no clause existed to say that they would be ineligible.

In many ways, the contest was a success for Esurance. More than 2.1 million eligible tweets went out, 200,000 of which came in the first minute. Ninety thousand users began following Esurance, and the campaign received a billion impressions. Undoubtedly, the episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live on which Krasinksi will reveal the winner will be watched by millions. But have the results been all good? Many would say no.

The lax restrictions placed on the sweepstakes have led to some less-than-favorable tweets in association with Esurance’s brand, and many users quickly became fed up with endless hopeful tweets and retweets from others. One user reported that he logged onto his feed this morning, only to find that one friend, @Tupper_Ware had retweeted more than 100 other users who had already written #EsuranceSave30 tweets, apologizing, “Again, im sorry followers for all the #esurancesve30 tweets. I promise i will only do this again if I have another chance to win 1.5 million.”

Clogged feeds weren’t the worst of it. @AdamWednesdays mused, “Every tweet with #EsuranceSave30 is an entry to win? Then let me use this tweet to say: Esurance was founded by Nazi war criminals.” Meanwhile, @MinnesotaMess celebrated, “Because getting someone rich and famous to sleep with you and then poking a hole in the condom is too much work. #EsuranceSave30”

Despite the mild chaos, it seems clear from the rules posted online that Esurance won’t be awarding its $1.5 million to anyone likely to embarrass its brand. Rule 27 explains that the winner will be subject to a background check, “to confirm that the unofficial winner and/or alternate… has not participated in any behavior that… will reflect negatively on or embarrass the Sponsor’s brand in planned media and publicity activities.”

Was the campaign a success? Some would say yes. After all, it’s hard to argue with a billion impressions, 90,000 new followers, and the attention of the nation. But, was it worth putting the Esurance brand out there for association with Nazi war criminals, Obamacare rage, racist epithets, a full complement of swear words, and more? It’s hard to say.

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