The Fast and the Slow of it: Super Bowl 50 Advertisers
by February 10, 2016

Filed under: Application Performance Management, Industry Insights

For us at AppNeta, Super Bowl 50* carried few emotions. Sure, we wanted to see Peyton sacked a few more times in his career or watch an awkward spiral fly into blue and black gloves, but overall the collective heart rate of New England wasn’t anywhere near what it was last year (in case you don’t recall, there was a pretty exciting play at the very end; I’ll give you a minute to click through and watch).

So when the game fell short of even our moderate expectations, there were still the ads. For us, the real excitement was checking the performance of the advertisers’ websites. To celebrate our early February holiday we wanted to see how these sites fared — did they forget about performance or did they gracefully handle the spikes in traffic that occur when the world wants to see those dachshunds just one more time before bed?

Simple up/down tracking

Synthetic monitoring through AppView Synthetic Transaction Monitoring ranges from simple website pings to in-depth scripts, but for this investigation we merely want to check the health of these sites to see if any fell over due to the load. To do that we set up AppView Synthetic Transaction Monitoring to target each site and load the page every few minutes. All sites were monitored from the Virginia data center and included a simple script to load the domain and any specific sub-site that was relevant for the commercial (e.g., www.kia.com: open ‘/us/addpizzazz/’ ‘Load Site’).

With that, here the Super Bowl 50 Advertiser Website Winners and Losers (as featured in BizReport and App Developer Magazine):

Losers

avocados

Avocados from Mexico

Averaging 8.7 s over the course of the game, including a spike to 57 seconds late in the game, it’s a wonder that with their space-age theme they haven’t invested more time in performance. Seems like more time spent on performance and less on feeding Scott Baio would have been one solution.

Highlights

  • The 9.7 MB page size total was one of the biggest on our list. In fact, the images alone almost match the page weight of our 2nd and 3rd place losers.
  • The site is loaded with JavaScript and Styling – 2.5 MB out of 9.7 MB is just JavaScript. A further 6.17 MB is images.
  • 1 MB of the site’s load is just prepared guacamole images proving once and for all that you can never have too much guacamole.
  • With 187 requests to load this site it’s in the middle of our range, but actually contains many fewer advertisers due to the amount of JavaScript and CSS they’re loading.
Avocados from Mexico Page Load Response

Avocados from Mexico Page Load Response

toyota

Toyota

Averaging 5.9 seconds over the game and having roughly 4 slow downs on load – Toyota spent a lot of money on the Prius commercials to make the Prius seem hip and fast… too bad their website wasn’t.

Highlights

  • The total page weight of 5.4 MB is over 40% images (2.3 MB) – their 21 stock car images take up the first 1.3 seconds of load time even though they aren’t visible until the user chooses the “Select Vehicle” menu item. I smell optimization!
  • Toyota can blame their largest spike on a FastClick tracking pixel that attributed server latency on all of their calls.
  • With 316 requests to load this site, which is more than our other two top 3 combined, the amount of ad and conversion tracking is so high that it’s slowing the overall end user experience down.
Toyota Page Load Response

Toyota Page Load Response

turbotax

TurboTax

This site started off poorly with a spike to over 20 seconds of server latency, but evened out back down to an average of 4.6 seconds – now the average is high due to the spike, but early slow downs indicate a lack of planning.

  • At 1.7 MB of page weight TurboTax is the lightest in our Losers category.
  • The most significant server side latency was due to tracking pixels from advertisers.
  • Each request spends 110 ms of the call just moving from “turbotax.com” to “turbotax.intuit.com” with a 301 Moved Permanently HTTP Status Code – this task also jumped to 1 second of latency right before the spike you see in the chart
  • With only 120 requests to load this site it’s in good shape for weight and tasks.
TurboTax Page Load Response

TurboTax Page Load Response

Winners

Some of the largest budgets also led to some of the fastest sites based on page load time.

Colgate & Doritos

Average Page Load Time = 0.4 seconds

Touching both our hearts and our appetite both of these sites maintained very fast performance over the course of the game. What’s not to love with Colgate’s simple, but powerful message and Doritos’ enterprising trio of dogs who stop at nothing for a bag of chips (which incidentally is the final year of Doritos’ $1 million ad contest).

Mountain Dew, Heinz and Kia

Average Page Load Time = 0.5 seconds

While that puppy monkey baby is still giving everyone chills Heinz calmed us with their slow motion hot dogs running towards their favorite condiments. Kia paid homage to Christopher Walken fans everywhere and reminded all of us that crazy socks are in, beige is out.

Apartments.com

Average Page Load Time = 0.7 seconds

Because who doesn’t love the sweet jazz piano sounds of Jeff Goldblum (*ahem* Brad Bellflower) moving on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky?

That wraps up our little experiment over at AppNeta for this year, we hope you enjoyed the game and some extra commentary here. As always if you have any feedback please feel free to reach out to us at feedback@appneta.com

*Why we endured roman numerals for other such Super Bowls as XLVIII and XXXVIII only to abandon it when it’s simply an L is beyond me.

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