The online marketplace Temu's “Make Your Wishes Come True” Super Bowl LVIII spot was the most popular ad-related search term, according to an analysis of Google Trends search data by promotional products company Pens.com. The data noted a 1,139% increase in searches from the United States for the commercial and the company behind it.
The 30-second spot features a computer-animated shopper dancing through an orange-hued dream sequence as dozens of discounted items offered through Temu magically appear. Other characters also have inspirational shopping experiences, as the narrator encourages customers to ‘shop like a billionaire.'
Temu’s increasing name recognition among bargain-savvy online shoppers may have put it on the map in a virtual marketplace, but mainstream recognition for a niche application, game, or online service can remain elusive if the company behind it is not willing to assume some financial risk. While the upfront costs of a single Super Bowl spot are considerable, the payoff for smaller but upwardly mobile companies is just as considerable.
The Competition for Second Place
Temu's search data success is even more impressive when the notoriously competitive Super Bowl commercial market is factored in. Temu's self-promotional spot faced significant challenges from more established and less controversial brand names such as Volkswagen and Disney. Google Trends searches for “Temu” were 190% higher than both of those two highly recognizable companies.
Considering the average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial, from concept to air time, Temu would likely have invested between $6.5 million and $7 million for production expenses. Initial viewing numbers for Super Bowl LVIII hover around the 120 million mark, with distinctions between game fans, halftime show fans, and commercial fans. The game also went into overtime, a rare occurrence in the Super Bowl, giving more advertisers the opportunity for coveted in-game spots to air.
Shot in the Promotional Arm for Temu
The Temu platform, a U.S. offshoot of Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, has only existed since September 2022 and is still expanding into major international markets. The application competes with dominant online shopping outlets such as Amazon, Etsy, and Google Marketplace. Some critics have compared Temu to another controversial deep-discount online marketplace, Wish.com.
The company's performance concerns include undelivered packages, unexpected charges, incorrect orders, and negligible customer service. Temu has already acknowledged more than 30 complaints to the Better Business Bureau and has a BBB customer rating of less than 1.5 stars.
Temu’s business practices have also faced international criticism and litigation. Like many other mainland China companies, Temu's parent company apparently uses a 996 work schedule, with employees working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Vendors have also noted the company's demands for extremely deep wholesale discounts, to the point of financial loss. These products are often used as free promotional items for new customers or as premiums for loyal shoppers.
However, positive exposure through larger-than-life campaigns, including these new Super Bowl ads, helped Temu improve its standing among potential customers, especially those seeking the lowest retail prices on products they might consider luxuries, such as electronics, designer clothes, and imported foods. Many customers appear willing to accept risks such as damaged or outdated goods to benefit from the company's deep discounts fulfilled primarily by Chinese-based suppliers.
Will Temu Reap the Benefits of Its Super Bowl Investments?
It is common for a start-up, service provider, or app developer to take a significant financial risk by investing in a single Super Bowl spot instead of less expensive traditional advertising outlets.
Sometimes, the gamble pays off, and potential customers form a favorable opinion of the company based on the appeal of the commercial itself. Other times, the ad spot fades from public memory quickly or is aired at a time when game viewership is minimal.
The challenge for newer companies like Temu is to produce a memorable Super Bowl spot that goes viral and encourages engagement after the game ends.
“Already averaging a volume of 4.6 million online searches a month in the U.S. alone, Temu is steadfast in its pursuit of becoming America's leading shopping app,' a spokesperson for Pens.com comments.
“In 2023, the brand was estimated to have paid $1.7 billion in marketing alone. Since its Super Bowl debut last year, the platform expanded to three slots this year, sparking significant controversy along the way as the company grapples with ethical accusations. Emerging as the undisputed leader among its competitors that night, the remarkable surge in popularity has led the company to establish itself as a substantial player in the industry.”