The Verge’s Super Bowl Ad: It’s About The Future

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Moments after my flight from Munich touched down at JFK at 3:30pm yesterday, my phone lit up with text messages from friends. One, from a usually incredulous friend, read: “You guys are running a Super Bowl ad? Amazing.”

At this point, it was about an hour since The Verge had published, then unpublished, a post with the headline “DNP Verge Super Bowl ad” and some brief dummy copy by Nilay about how this space would be filled in before publication of the post on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. Verge fanboys being Verge fanboys, many read the site via RSS, so the rogue post remained in their feeds and they immediately started chatting about the post on Twitter. It wasn’t long before several media organizations jumped on the story, and our CEO took to Twitter to confirm the commercial and release it to the world:

By now, Vox was fielding inquiries from the likes of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, both of whom quickly published their own stories on the news. After all, the story of a venture-capital backed online publisher, which happened to have just raised a $45 million round of financing, dropping $4.5 million of it on a Super Bowl commercial of all things, was irresistible. (A Twitter user superimposed the Pets.com sock puppet over a photo of The Verge staff.)

Which was all well and good until we let the cat out of the bag an hour later: The Verge was indeed airing a Super Bowl commercial during the game — but only in the local market of Helena, Montana, where to reach an audience of 30,000 we’d agreed to pay the going local rate of $700 per 30 second spot. This led to a round of revisions in the original media reports, and a wonderful new New York Times headline:

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I’ll leave it to the masterminds behind the troll — Nilay Patel and Jonathan Hunt — to write the full tick-tock of the matter, but suffice to say that I adore a good media stunt, and this one worked out about as well as one could have ever dreamed. (The team, naturally, took the greatest delight in having roped in Sam Biddle, although the local Helena media reporting on the story also proved particularly LOLworthy.)

The story isn’t over yet. Might The Verge send someone to cozy Helena, Montana, on Super Bowl Sunday? Do stay tuned. But for now, the final word to the CEO of T-Mobile, John Legere: