Liquid Death's Cheeky Ad Campaign Gives eBay Alternate Route to Super Bowl Season Visibility

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


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UPDATE 2-15-24

Unfortunately, this has turned into a masterclass of how to flush brand reputation and goodwill down the toilet for both Liquid Death and eBay....literally.

After flushable wipes brand DUDE Wipes claimed the winning bid, things went sideways quickly with Liquid Death backing out, allegedly due to some "technical issues" they said had prevented some brands from bidding.

Liquid Death blamed eBay for the snafu, saying bidding or purchase limits prevented some brands from participating making it not "a legitimate fair auction."

Ebay isnt designed to have brands easily create accounts and bid hundreds of thousands of dollars. Brands had credit cards verified and were still getting blocked messages trying to bid higher. eBay team confirmed this.

The intention was to have a legitimate fair auction where the highest bidder gets the ad space. Not a contest for whoever is best at setting up random eBay accounts. We are allowing all interested brands to actually place a bid.
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DUDE Wipes artfully called out the fact that Liquid Death chose to run the auction on eBay and should honor the winning bid.

Others echoed the sentiment, saying if Liquid Death was aware that some bidders were running into "technical issues", they should have pulled the auction early instead of stringing it along.

More name calling ensued, with Liquid Death inexplicably trying to say DUDE Wipes was not the highest bidder because others would have bid higher but were prevented from doing so...sounds like someone forgot to read the eBay rules and policies before launching their first auction.

For being DUDES you're kinda acting like babies. An auction is very simple. The highest bidder wins. You were not the highest bidder. Not even close. We then reached out to you directly to offer other solutions, including offering you the ability to be an additioanl brand to have an ad on our cases. But you didn't want to hear it and just wined more. Oh well. SHIT happens.

unsuckEBAY also aptly pointed out there's plenty of blame to go around here and that given the stakes in play, eBay should be stepping up to make things right for both the buyer and seller.

More than that, given brand visibility & everything else about this campaign, eBay should have had a dedicated account rep walking Liquid Death through set up, execution & finalization of the auction (including detailed explanations of relevant processes & policies) to make sure this entirely avoidable fiasco never happened.

Presumably there are some very good reasons most one month old, zero feedback seller accounts would not have been allowed to do something like this...so why did those normal new seller limits not apply?


UPDATE 2-13-24

It looks like we may have spoken too soon! If true, what would eBay do to most month old, 0 feedback seller accounts that pulled a stunt like this & cheated them out of ~$8,600 in Final Value Fees?


UPDATE 2-13-24

The auction has ended with a final bid of $355,500.00 from an as yet unknown winner - with 0 feedback, what are the odds this one will go unpaid?


eBay may not be running a Super Bowl ad this year, but they'll still be getting some attention thanks to a cheeky anti-Super Bowl ad stunt by canned water brand Liquid Death, who is auctioning off ad space on their packaging.

Biggest Ad Ever
Don’t be scared. It’s just water. And iced tea. Murder your thirst. Death to plastic.

This year, we’re not buying an ad in Sunday’s Big Game. We’re selling one that’s even bigger.

Here's how it works:

Right now on eBay, we’re auctioning off the Biggest Ad Ever: your brand on the side of a national run of over a half million cases of Liquid Death. Bidding starts at just $500.

The auction runs through Tuesday and has already received over 100 bids, bringing the current price to over $222,000.

Your Ad on a National Run of Liquid Death Cases | eBay
Want your ad on a national run of tiny billboards in major retailers across the US? It’s possible thanks to the Biggest Ad Ever. That’s right, your ad will be featured on the side of a national production run of Liquid Death Mountain Water cases—approximately half a million of them.

Keep in mind that because it is listed in the Speciality Services category, eBay's Money Back Guarantee and other protections do not apply.

It's also interesting that Liquid Death was apparently able to bypass typical selling limits that would have likely prevented most zero feedback ~1 month old accounts from posting a listing like this.

Whoever wins the big game today, eBay will likely come out the winner on this auction as not only do the stand to make Final Value Fee Commission on the sale (12.35% up to $2,500 and 2.35% on the portion of the sale over $2,500 if standard rates apply) - they are also making advertising money from one of Liquid Death's competitors, Smart Water, who has taken out a display ad on the listing for an undisclosed sum.

Tien Phan on LinkedIn: #smartwater #adweek #adage #cocacola | 18 comments
Liquid Death probably won’t sell us the ad on their box so we decided to put an ad on their eBay listing. So enough with the death talk already, crack open… | 18 comments on LinkedIn

Smart Water parent company Coca-Cola's Director, End to End Connections & Media Tien Phan posted about their marketing strategy on LinkedIn, trolling Liquid Death saying they "probably won't sell us the ad on their box."

Liquid Death probably won’t sell us the ad on their box so we decided to put an ad on their eBay listing. So enough with the death talk already, crack open something smart!

smartwaterad.jpg

But that positioning fell flat with many commenters on LinkedIn, including Brand Marketing Specialist Michael McHoul who said:

Targeting a direct competitor (with a much more die-hard fanbase) on their listing page downplaying their branding that is pushing for environmentally friendly packaging (death to plastic) is not the move. 🤷🏻

Smart Water may have sniffed the plate as it passed by, but Liquid Death ATE 🍽️ #DeathToPlastic #LiquidDeath

The far more social media savvy brand is also taking the challenge in stride and responding directly to the masses and their die-hard fanbase.

Meanwhile eBay competitor Etsy will be making their Super Bowl debut today, promoting their new Gift Mode AI-powered recommendation feature.

Etsy Reveals Gift Mode Campaign With Super Bowl Sneak Peek
Etsy VP Brand Marketing Brad Minor has revealed campaign for Gift Mode with a sneak peek of their big Super Bowl ad.

Do you think spending ~$7 Million on a Super Bowl ad is a good bet for ecommerce marketplaces? Let us know in the comments below!

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of experience in online sales & marketplaces, providing expert commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Amazon, Etsy & more at Value Added Resource!