Dropping The Ball

Maybe I was watching the wrong game on Sunday. My understanding from people who know sports better than I is that there was only one game of note this weekend, so I guess I was watching the Super Bowl. Funny, that. Here I was waiting to see how marketers leveraged this signature marketing event of the year on a mobile medium that was present in the pockets of every sentient being watching the game.

Silly me.

From what I could tell, those phones stayed in their pockets, because most of the big brand marketers lost their audience's phone numbers for the day. Aside from the nondescript Bud Bowl ad poll and Cadillac's MVP voting, there were no sustained efforts to parallel program on mobile. There were only a few spots that even called out to a text tie-in. When I spoke with HipCricket's Vice President of Brand Solution Steve Siegel yesterday, he called it a day of "missed opportunities." I am less polite: marketing just fumbled the damn ball.

The Bud Bowl mobile voting was workmanlike and effective. An SMS hit shortly after each of the major spots asking for a rating. The message reinforced the brand continuity among the spots and the content of the spots themselves. I wasn't thrilled with the culmination. My understanding was that this year the payoff for all this texting and voting was an unaired spot accessible by mobile. Apparently the "secret spot" was at the WAP site to which the final message linked, but it was not apparent to this user on a smaller handset. I gather it was the "Cut the Cheese" deli spot, but all this was left unclear at the site. I was left wondering why the brand didn't call out the added value it was giving its loyal mobile audience.

I was underwhelmed by the Cadillac MVP voting as well. I texted in my vote and never heard again from Cadillac until the end of the game, when it finally acknowledged the vote, told me the winner and pushed me to the uninteresting NFL Super Bowl site. I just gave Cadillac more branding in this paragraph than the car maker itself got from its own text messages. Is this really the best they could do?

I must have been napping during the United Way spot Steve Siegel caught. It was one of the few on-air messages that called out an SMS prompt, in this case to make a premium SMS donation. Good for them.

As Steve points out, the biggest incomplete pass of the game was Bridgestone's failure to leverage a halftime show that was begging for mobile complements. "What about a Tom Petty ringtone? Running Down a Dream?" he says. Actually, I would have opted for the screaming Richard Simmons ringtone, but you get the point.

And where was the ringtone for Doritos' music video? It chose a lovely young Jewel-like singer with a smarmy riff and didn't offer a ringtone? Is this Super Bowl XXXIX?

Were marketers just distracted by Web complements, or did they just miss the last year of innovative TV-to-Web programming? Where were the WAP sites offering parallel commentary and information on the game in real time? For two years now, Bravo and others have let viewers subscribe to reality show characters and receive messages from them during the show. Didn't anyone think to sign up one of the high profile commentators to send SMS comments during the game?

According to the overnight ratings from Akamai, overall Web use during this very tense and dramatic game was down from previous years because people either didn't want to leave the room to type that advertiser's URL, or the TV itself just kept them too riveted. More to the point, watching the Super Bowl is a social activity. How many laptops are in a crowded living room anyway? It seems to me that in these situations, the phone is the more likely "second screen" with better reach and more likelihood of being used.

Even better, it has a push mechanism that actively alerts the user -- just in case he does something annoying like pay close attention to the game instead of the ads.

I can only hope we actually get an Oscars this year, and that marketers wake up by then to the possibilities of offering a personal, viable second screen when the whole world is watching.

Tags: mobile
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