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Nat Geo’s ‘Genius’ Ad Anything But ‘Bad Romance’

Seconds after Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl LI halftime performance concluded, a familiar face began playing a violin version of her hit “Bad Romance.”

It was actor Geoffrey Rush, appearing as Albert Einstein, whom he’ll also be portraying on National Geographic’s new series “Genius,” beginning April 25.

The ad was no surprise — like many spots, Nat Geo’s first-ever Super Bowl spot was pre-released online days earlier. What was surprising, though, was what came next: Apple News alerts from Nat Geo about Albert Einstein and his love of the violin. A post titled “Inside Einstein’s Love Affair With ‘Lina’—His Cherished Violin” had been published on nationalgeographic.com the Friday before the big game, but a big push around the piece, including the news alert, was timed to feed the curiosity of the millions who saw the “Genius” promo during the big game.

As AdExchanger’s Kelly Liyakasa reported, it was all part of plan — a content strategy combining ad, editorial, brand partners and more — led by National Geographic EVP and CMO Jill Cress. “This wasn’t just about getting a Super Bowl spot out there,” Cress told Liyakasa. “We had a proper war room set up with teams from disciplines across social and digital marketing to execute it in a way that felt relevant for fans and audiences.”

The result: one of Super Bowl LI’s biggest social media wins. According to iSpot.tv, “Genius” was No. 5 in terms of social impressions racked up by Super Bowl ads, with a total of 129 million, outperforming major spots from Honda, Intel, Buick, Budweiser and more.