Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who is the MVP of the Marketing Bowl: Social Media or Super Bowl Ads?

This blog post was cross-posted with my new blog on the Forrester blog at

My Super Bowl XLIV PredictionImage by Michael Kwan (Freelancer) via Flickr
If you read this blog, you likely already care less about the Saints versus the Colts than you do about Super Bowl ads versus Social Media marketing.  After all, the real money isn't earned from the battle on the field but in the battle that occurs during timeouts: Each player on last year's winning team earned a bonus of $83,000 while NBC earned around $213 million in ad revenue for the telecast.

A shift is occurring in the relative importance to marketers of Social Media and Super Bowl advertising.  Of course, the 2010 Super Bowl isn't the first we've seen of the marriage of Social Media and Super Bowl ads.  Last year, Doritos struck gold with a UGC (User-Generated Content) ad produced by two unemployed brothers, and the brand is back this year with more UGC ads competing for even greater prize money.

But this year, there's a difference:  The first evidence that the world has changed between Super Bowl XLIII and XLIV came from Pepsi's news it would not advertise during the big game; instead the brand is opting to invest its marketing budget in a Social Media marketing program called Pepsi Refresh.  Many of us in the Social Media business were a bit shocked by this, not because Pepsi saw the importance of Social Media marketing but because they saw it as an alternative rather than an adjunct to their Super Bowl ad campaign.  As I said to 1to1 Media at the time, "There was a part of me that was a little surprised that (Pepsi) didn't think about layering a social media program on top of a Super Bowl ad."

While Pepsi is to be commended for using the "Social Media vs. Super Bowl ads" hype for terrific PR advantage, the fact is that advertising and Social Media go together like brats and beer.  Advertising is great at raising awareness to a mass audience, while Social Media marketing is perfect for building deeper relationships and influence.  The two are mutually beneficial, not mutually exclusive.

This paired benefit is not lost on other brands; in fact,the first sentence of the New York Times article says it all, "Coca-Cola is telling Pepsi-Cola that when it comes to Super Bowl advertising, you can walk and chew gum at the same time."  Coke is one brand that will use its Super Bowl ad to promote its Facebook program,, where consumers can send virtual goods and earn Coca-Cola donations to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  Audi is another Super Bowl advertiser that is using their valuable ad time to drive consumers into a Social Media venue;  their "Green Police" ads direct consumers to the Audi YouTube channel where the humorous ads can be viewed, rated, and shared.  On Twitter,Unilever will be engaging people who tweet about their Dove Men+Care ads in real-time during the game and E*Trade will be directing viewers to BabyMail, a site to send e-mail messages using voices that simulate baby talk.

And this is where the interesting shift in the recognition of Social Media marketing is evident:  Last year, brands used Social Media marketing mostly to develop content for and promote their Super Bowl ads, but this year Super Bowl ads are being dedicated to the support of larger Social Media marketing strategies.  The servant has become the master.

The reason for this shift is obvious:  Consumer habits are changing.  Back in 2007, Forrester's North American Social Technographics Online Survey found that only 25% were Joiners--people who maintained a profile on social networking sites.   In 2009, that figure had risen to 59%.  The shift in consumer media consumptions is continuing, and this year's Super Bowl will not be the end of the evolution of marketers' budgets and strategies toward Social Computing.

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