ADBOWL: Ad Agencies Should be “Creative” Promoting Themselves

You’ve probably heard of ADBOWL, but you may not know that the idea originated  at a midsize ad agency’s Super Bowl party in Albuquerque, NM. Ten years later, growing in size every year, the idea has paid great dividends to the agency generating national television, press coverage and positioning it as an industry leader.

On Super Bowl Sunday (February 1, 2009), viewers can visit and rate commercials on a scale between one and five.  Participants have the option of rating the ads online as they air or printing a ballot and rating all of the ads at the end of the game. A complete listing of the results, including a breakdown of winners as selected by gender and age group, will be posted on the site between midnight and 1 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on February 2nd. 


Adbowl is an advertising ranking Web site for consumers developed by Albuquerque advertising agency McKee Wallwork Cleveland in partnership with Fort Worth, Texas-based Web design firm Rassai Interactive  has attracted vote-volume in the hundreds of thousands.

Steve McKee, President of McKee Wallwork Cleveland, recently shared with me how the idea for ADBOWL came about and what it has done for his agency:

ADBOWL started as a lark. Ten years ago, we thought it would be fun to have a Super Bowl commercials party at the agency, so we did. We handed out little paper ballots on which attendees rated the spots. Pretty humble beginnings.

The next year we put it online and thought we would promote it within the industry. We approached ADWEEK and they thought it was a fun idea, so they gave us some free ad space to spread the word.

One thing then led to another, and in subsequent years things have taken off. ADBOWL has done wonders for the agency on many levels:

First, it gets us lots of free press, which is great for the “I’ve heard of you” factor. It’s gotten us in every major newspaper and trade magazine, on network affiliates all over the country, and even on national TV (a few times). It’s a great door-opener.

Second, it reinforces our desired positioning as an advertising industry leader. We are the expert “color commentators” on the year’s biggest day of advertising.

And third, it has offered us amazing opportunities to learn (by doing) new media. For example, we worked with Sprint to pioneer text-based voting that is now used far and wide, including on American Idol. 

In the first years it was a pretty complex thing to execute–we really didn’t know what we were getting into. But as technology has evolved we’ve gotten it down to a science. We try to make incremental improvements each year but keep the user experience very simple and fun.”

In past years, Adbowl has attracted vote-volume in the hundreds of thousands. The following is a list of voters’ favorite ads from the past five years:

2008 – Budweiser’s “Clydesdale Team”
2007 – Bud Light’s “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
2006 – Bud Light’s “Hidden Fridge”
2005 – Anheuser-Busch’s “Applause”
2004 – Budweiser’s “Donkey Dream”

Follow ADBOWL on Twitter


Steve McKee recently wrote a book, When Growth Stalls that will be available in March of 2009. Steve has been generating pre-sales using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m sure the book will provide additional promotion for the agency and further position it as a leader.


Encourage your staff to be creative in ways to promote your agency. If you have examples of creative promotions to share, please include in the comment section of this post.


Additional articles regarding ad agency promotion:


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Michael Gass, agency new business consultant, primarily to small-to midsize advertising agencies, utilizing both traditional and new media tools.

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About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Michael,

    Enjoyed the post. There are so many alternative, creative ways to get your firm’s name out there and to also have fun. We did a similar project to ADBOWL, focused more on our own niche. It was called Vote the Site, and it allowed people from across the country to vote on which political candidates had the better website. In just 7 days, the site garnered over 15,000 votes and earned media attention from various outlets. It was a huge success at building our political web development brand, getting some valuable data, and having fun with a side project.

    It also allowed us to generate some great content for our blog, as we wrote about our strategy with the microsite. You can see one of the posts here:

  2. Clay,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I checked out your link to your agency’s microsite. Nicely done!

  3. Keep it up the good job 🙂

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