As the Broncos and Seahawks scrambled for loose footballs in Super Bowl XLVIII, brands scrambled for a viral hit on Twitter.
Following Oreo's tweet heard 'round the world during the big game's blackout in 2013, it's hard to blame them. Companies wanted similar relevance on a platform that was even noisier a year later. More than 24.9 million tweets were posted to the microblogging site during the showdown, slightly edging out the 2013 Super Bowl's 24.1 million tweets.
And while some brands kicked field goals, none scored a social touchdown during the most-watch television show in U.S. history.
J.C. Penney caught flak for tweeting with mittens. Heinz was seen spraying ketchup everywhere; Tide supplied the cleanup crew. Hillary Clinton bashed Fox, Doritos hacked a section at MetLife Stadium, and Buffalo Wild Wings touted its magical game-extending button.
These all earned real-time retweets, but if social media directors hoped the Internet would be raving-and-faving these posts days later, it isn't happening.
(Read more: Facebook vs. Twitter: The Real-Time Battle)
Even Esurance—which may have seen the most social media success out of all brands on Twitter after it ran a commercial announcing the giveaway of $1.5 million—became popular online only after the game had ended.
Without a blackout moment, were brands trying too hard?
"I'd argue that most brands weren't trying hard enough," said Ross Sheingold, chief strategy officer at social media agency Laundry Service. "After last year, brands wanted their 'Oreo moment' and didn't appreciate the brand equity, serendipity, creativity and timing necessary to achieve that feat. Many brands mistakenly thought that simply participating in the noise would be good for their brand. A lot of those attempts fell flat."
To help bolster advertising efforts in 2014, companies paid Twitter to showcase in-game tweets to more than just their followers.
"Savvy brands amplified their Super Bowl television spots using Promoted Tweets in users' timelines," Sheingold said. "Some brands (RadioShack) did that well; some brands (Maserati) participated, but didn't invest time into creating compelling social content; and some brands (Toyota) wasted their money on confusing tweets with typos." Sheingold predicts that not too far in the future, every big TV advertiser will be using Twitter ads to amplify their TV spots.
But why exactly did brands fail to create an "Oreo moment" this time?
"Real-time marketing is reacting to unexpected events in real time," Sheingold said. "Real-time marketing is not sharing content that was created ahead of a planned event."
Belus Capital Advisors analyst Brian Sozzi explained that "big brands were trying way too hard to create a moment instead of letting it happen."
So, where was Oreo—the undefeated king of real-time marketing—this year?
The cookie company took to Twitter 15 minutes before the game to let the world know it was sitting this one out. "We're going dark," @Oreo wrote.
In a game filled with brand noise, silence may have been golden for Oreo.