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Social Media and the Super Bowl

Recently, Ad Age posted a compelling article titled Is Social Media Spoiling the Super Bowl Ad Surprise? On the one side, does the cost of creating ads justify early reveals on social media sites to broaden the reach, thereby ending the surprise reveal for which the Super Bowl ads have become renowned? On the other, is the reveal the greatest value of Super Bowl advertising? The article offers good points on both sides.

Here is our take:

SoLoMo (social+location+mobile) is creating a paradigm shift in the marketing industry. Shoppers are outpacing brands by years in adopting this, and reactionary efforts are generating conversations, but they may not be the conversations brands prefer. If shoppers are laughing, it may be at your brand, not with your brand. However, the bigger threat is that shoppers have just stopped paying attention to your brand.

The old paradigm of eyeballs/views/likes is shifting to engagement (two-way), in near-real time and place. Twitter reported 1.1 million tweets about the inauguration on inauguration day (up from 82,000 in 2009). E-mail mobile-open rates have gone from insignificant to near 60% in a couple of years. Smartphone activations are in the tens of millions a year, in fact, nearly 17 million on this past Christmas Day alone. Major US carriers don't offer anything but an unlimited texting plan with smartphones anymore.

While Ad Age provides a good look at both ends of the existing spectrum, this new paradigm is not addressed. Embracing this new paradigm is embracing what works and integrating SoLoMo. A good marketer does not destroy something like a great reveal that has probably been the single thing keeping more eyes on the TV during commercials to generate some pre-event buzz. What happened when Ferris Bueller's Acura commercial was shown during the Super Bowl after weeks of pre-game YouTube play? People engaged in conversation with their guests instead of Acura.

Here is the new paradigm:

  • Some pre-publicity through social media to generate awareness that your brand will be part of the Super Bowl (no reveals, build suspense). This would be a combination of organic and paid placement.
  • The TV spot has a call to action in real time. This is beyond a "text to win" concept, though SMS may be the starting point.
  • Using technology that tracks data such as location of response, the brand engages with users.
  • The conversation is "real time", perhaps about the ad (What color was the car in this spot?); or the game (Will the Ravens come back from a 14-point deficit?); or themselves (Where are you watching the game? At home, a friend’s house, a bar?).
  • Using a combination of these, a social sharing mechanism could be generated (I'm watching the Super Bowl from my friend’s house, and I say the Acura in that commercial was blue. What do you think?).

A food brand or others partnering with a food brand could also make a real-time offer to any respondent whose location indicates that they are at a brand location. For example, participants who engage from a Buffalo Wild Wings location could receive an instant offer for a free appetizer, perhaps only within minutes of the ad play. However, they could also receive a frictionless sharing link for their friends to get a lesser offer that is good through the end of the game.

The added value of this new paradigm is the data that is collected. The success of engagement is not a "one-off" like the ad itself. Engagement can indicate loyalty, but those who share are stronger candidates as loyals. As a brand, you have started a conversation with these loyals that can continue beyond the event. Again, remember that conversation is two-way, not pushing a marketing message. But that is a topic for another blog entry.

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