Kicks to Clicks – Measuring Half-Life

by Paul D'Alessandro on February 12, 2010

For the second year in a row I conducted an experiment during the Super Bowl.  In parallel I run a video of the game coming in from my SlingBox and a browser window watching blogosphere activity as monitored by Digg Storm.  I then run a screen recorder to develop a multiple window movie of the whole event.  If you are not familiar with Digg Lab’s Storm product, it grew to fame with the launch of the iPhone by demonstrating its unique ability to visually monitor this seismic event as it propagated across the Internet.

The intent of this experiment is quite simple, determine whether any of the ads, the halftime show or even the game itself trigger “significant” online activity.  For the second year in a row the results were underwhelming.  While small “tremors” occur, nothing happens of seismic significance.  Certainly nothing of the magnitude of the iPhone launch.  Some popular ads, especially those around movies, trigger minor tremors.  Last year GI Joe was a surprise conversation generator.  This year struck an interest chord with some bloggers.

A few days ago Twitter released results on their blog of a very similar Super Bowl experiment.  Contrasting the results of their experiment and mine, the “Twittersphere” appeared to have been a bit more reactionary than the “Blogosphere”.  I think the why is relatively apparent.  There is still a relatively loose place/space connection between the real world and the Internet.  Put another way, the half-life of a traditional advertising event in online media is still measured in minutes and seldom in hours or days.

If you stand back and look at another example in the American Football domain I think that Southwest Airlines is quite smart about maximizing the half-life of its traditional media investment.  This is a company that pours money into Sunday game advertising.  But it does not stop there.  Realizing that more than 80% of their revenue is generated from online booking they purposely build on the Sunday traditional media messaging with online advertising at peak times of online booking (Sunday evening, Monday’s during lunch hour, etc).  While others strive to extend the half-life of their messaging beyond the realm of minutes, Southwest can measure theirs in days.

Over time I have come to realize that this concept of “half-life” is quite an important measure in customer experience design.  Place/space convergence is emerging as a critical aspect of tomorrow’s products and services.  Tying the two together has always been a challenge.  If there is any lesson to be learned from these experiments to date it is that there is an interesting measure of an increasingly important aspect of customer experience design and if you think about your own efforts to maximize this metric, you will be far ahead of the competition.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Weave February 12, 2010 at 11:23 am


Excellent analysis of advertising’s changing landscape. I’m interested to hear if your experiment would generate similar results under more normal circumstances. Super Bowl ads have steadily moved away from the product; now, the ad IS the product, which might not necessarily interpolate into increased sales. Viewers end up blogging/tweeting about the ad, not the product, and while entertaining, a house made of Bud Light does not provide enough incentive for me to purchase Bud Light in any quantity.

Your article generates a plethora of ideas for future discussion. Products versus services, for example. How does a company extend the half-life of a service, which for all intents & purposes is intangible? How great of an impact does perceived value have on a message’s life span? Is it more important that having “Sham Wow” guy exploding in your living room? I mean, the Snuggie has become a runaway success, and it’s little more than a bathrobe put on backwards! 90% of households already had a Snuggie and didn’t even know it.

Keep it coming, sir. And please keep us posted on how technology will close the gap between traditional media outlets and Web 2.0 applications.


Paul D'Alessandro February 12, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Weave… Great question and insight! I think you also just single-handedly destroyed the market for Snuggies! To your question, interestingly, on occasion I have seen more profound results running the same experiment under more “normal” circumstances. Normal being defined as the “surfing generation” sitting in front of their TV with their laptop. Inevitably this creates a more fluid connection between the two. The irony here is that the way I just defined it, “abnormal” is sitting in front of a TV without your laptop in a social setting drinking beer with your friends… scary thought!

As for the half-life of services versus products, seems to have risen out of obscurity to a level of relatively decent water-cooler discussion awareness in the past week. I would also put forward that Go-Daddy builds their whole year around the Super Bowl. In that case you could argue that particular service provider has achieved a half-life measured in months. They keep coming back for more every year so something must be working…. Paul (aka Hoagie)

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