The Best Way To Crash The Super Bowl
PepsiCo has a long history of running iconic ads during the Super Bowl. Last year, for the first time in 23 years, the company didn't run television commercials during the game. Instead, the major soft drink brand spent $20 million on the social media campaign Pepsi Refresh Project. The campaign launched in mid-January and allowed Web users to submit ideas for projects to Pepsi. The projects were ways that users could "refresh" their communities and help make the world a better place. The projects that got the most votes were then funded by Pepsi. During the Pepsi Refresh Project, the company more than doubled the number of Facebook fans. It also increased the number of Twitter followers to over 24,000, generated more than 60,000 tweets and earned over 100 million Twitter impressions.
This year, Pepsi continued the social experiment of innovative advertising by crowdsourcing its Super Bowl commercials. For Super Bowl XLV, Pepsi Max teamed up with sister brand Doritos in the "Crash the Super Bowl" contest. Fans were able to devise the ad creative and vote on their favorite ads during the contest. Over 5,600 submissions were received, and so were an unprecedented number of votes.
The Crash the Super Bowl campaign is indicative of a paradigm shift happening in digital marketing. With the rise of the social Web, marketers are no longer focusing on faceless impressions, but rather, they are engaging with real people. Marketers have begun to include people in the conversation -- and even as was the case with PepsiCo during the Super Bowl, in the ad creation process as well. Last year, Frank Cooper, Pepsi's Chief Consumer Engagement Officer, explained the company's social media initiatives for the Pepsi Refresh Project by stating: "We want to become a catalyst in the culture rather than act like a big brand announcing something." This statement proves that the broadcast style of one-to-many marketing is on the way out, especially for innovative marketers.
The term "crowdsourcing" was originally coined by Wired writer Jeff Howe a few years ago because of advances in technology -- namely the Internet, which diminished the line between amateurs and professionals. Because of crowdsourcing, companies have begun to utilize the talent of the public. And PepsiCo is one of the first companies to do so for both ad creation and to select the commercials that would appear during the Super Bowl, which as we all know is the biggest advertising event of the year.
The Crash the Super Bowl ad selection process utilized what The New Yorker writer James Surowiecki calls "the wisdom of crowds." This theory, discussed in his book of the same name, argues that a diverse group of independently-minded individuals are more likely to make better decisions and predictions than experts. Surowiecki's theory is one that worked well for PepsiCo, as four of the crowdsourced ads that ran during the Super Bowl appeared on the top 10 USA Today Ad Meter earlier this week, earning the brand a lot of media coverage and recognition.
Of course, PepsiCo's crowdsourcing of ads for the Super Bowl does not diminish the role of advertising agencies exactly, as some have claimed it to do. But what it should do is make agency executives and marketers realize that consumers should not just receive the ads anymore, but rather, they should be part of the ad process. This is not limited to crowdsourcing the actual ad creative, as PepsiCo did, which is a unique technique that may not always be practical in execution. But it does mean that marketers must change their focus. Instead of asking how many impressions their campaigns receive, they must begin to ask how many fans and followers their brand generates -- and what they are doing to engage them. <
Innovative marketers such as PepsiCo understand this and are engaging people in their marketing efforts, not blindly targeting impressions or broadcasting to the masses. In the future, metrics like fans and followers will be what CEOs want to discuss after the Super Bowl. Think about it. Facebook has over 500 million users. There's no better way to reach people and bring them to the Super Bowl than allow them to make and pick the ads shown, which have just as much appeal to consumers as the game itself.