The Super Social Media Bowl

Super Bowl advertising has become as highly anticipated as the “big game” itself; often, more so.  Coca Cola, Doritos, the eTrade baby, the Go Daddy girls, the Bud Bowl and Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales have become as iconic as the Lombardi Trophy thanks to some of the most creative, and most expensive, advertising campaigns strategically planned each year.  Traditionally, the commercials have been closely guarded secrets which become talk of the office the next day and case studies within the industry for years (such as Apple’s still-referenced “1984” commercial).  In recent years, they’ve gained life beyond the million dollar investment for thirty seconds of airtime thanks, in part, to fans who watch their favorites (or the ones they missed) and forward them on to friends via YouTube and Facebook.  2010 will be the year remembered by marketing students as the year social media became a key component of the message ahead of Game Day, not just in the aftermath.

As new technologies and consumer habits continue to evolve and embrace On Demand content through DVR or TiVo, Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and even network websites, traditional commercial advertising risks obsolesence.  Viewers have more control over how and when they watch their favorite programs.  Product Placement will become more common place – as evidenced by the Coke glasses on the American Idol judges table and Porche’s integration with Decoded on The History Channel.  Live Events like the Super Bowl may be one of the few remaining times when consumers actually watch, and look forward to, the commercials.

It only makes sense that companies willing to invest millions of dollars in television advertising would look for the most return.  Radio Stations and Local Advertisers should expect the same, and can do just as good a job as the big boys with a little creative effort.  Read More for an example of a local campaign that incorporated viral video, television, and database marketing with a small budget …

Before we get to the example, let’s take a look at how Social Media came to the rescue of advertisers in this year’s Super Bowl:

  • Go Daddy, always teasing viewers to visit their website to “see more” of their Go Daddy girls that were “too racy” for TV;
  • Mercedes, which gave away two cars in a “Tweet Race to the Big Game” contest;
  • Volkswagon, which teased its Darth Vader parody on YouTube weeks ahead of time and became one of the most watched for commercials during the game – earning 13 MILLION VIEWS before kick off!
  • Chevrolet used their commercial to tout a new Facebook status update audio feature in the new Cruze;
  • Motorola also teased their Xoom parody of the Apple commercial in advance;
  • Papa John’s, which offered the incentive of a free pizza if the game went into overtime to anyone who registered on their website;
  • Groupon’s charitable parodies that actually helped charities;
  • Foursquare, the location-based marketing site, used the opportunity to test market redemption badges through special check-ins from Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers fans watching the game at Foursquare venues … an early indication they may finally have monetization plans for leveraging their huge membership database.

These are stellar examples of what a large creative team can accomplish with a huge budget for digital and video production accompanied by a large advertising buy.  In reality, most of us don’t have that luxury.  But, that doesn’t mean we can’t apply the same principles to our marketing strategy on a smaller scale in local markets.

I’d like to share an example from Entercom Communications WZPL-FM “Z99.5” Radio Indianapolis, where I was the brand’s Program Director from 2000-2010.  We had a very small marketing budget available for use in 2007, if we could present a plan corporate believed would produce significant results.  We looked at numerous options, from on-air contesting to billboard advertising to television.  The budget was just large enough to buy about 225-275 points/week on television, a strategy that would help bring drive station Cume listening.  GM Phil Hoover, Marketing Director Toni Moore, morning host Dave Smiley, and I developed the concept that our Smiley Morning Show would do “Whatever It Takes” to get new listeners for his show and the radio station.  On the air, we encouraged listeners to visit our website and solicit their suggestion of what we should do to convince them to listen more and tell their friends to listen.  We chose one idea each week for five weeks and did it.  The highlights were condensed into a thirty second television commercial which ran for the following week; several minutes of raw footage were showcased on our website.  Smiley filled in potholes with a road crew (watch commercial / watch raw), taught a Zumba aerobics class (watch commercial / watch raw), worked in the Humane Society shelter (watch commercial / watch raw), served lunch to elementary students (watch commercial / watch raw), changed tires (watch commercial / watch raw), and more.  We received thousands of entries from our website and the videos went viral with thousands of views each.  Total Budget was less than $50,000 including production.  Success!  Thanks to Mosaic for video production during the TV flight.  By the way, “Whatever It Takes” lived on as a web-only video series for nearly two years following the TV campaign.  [See more video on my YouTube page here]

Point #2:  Advertisers should not add social media to a television campaign just for the sake of adding social media.  Bad commercials won’t go viral, unless it’s because they are so bad.  Poor incentives, or no incentive, will not drive web traffic.  And commercials that are not compelling or entertaining will still be a tune out.  The way you craft  your message is just as important as the message itself.  This is an important takeaway in programming your radio stations, too.  Listeners are conditioned to change the station when commercials start, but you might be able to keep them listening a few minutes longer if your commercials are well produced and well written … critical in today’s Arbitron PPM methodology.

As always, I’d love to see your examples of integrated marketing or read your comments … Agree or Disagree, share in the comments below.


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