Commentary

The Antisocial Bowl

If social media has finally gone mainstream, where was it during the Super Bowl? It wasn't visible in many of the spots.

With Facebook passing the 400 million user mark and so much of the buzz about the ads happening on Twitter, you'd expect more social media love from the ads. Instead, the Web site URLs at the end of the spots tended to go to the advertiser's main site. Where were the callouts to become a fan, follower, or friend?

Here are ten reasons why social media wasn't front and center during the Super Bowl ads:

1) Social belonged elsewhere in the architecture. Marketers must make decisions on where social media fits within their digital architecture. Frequently, their main site serves as the hub that links out to their social presence elsewhere, and those social properties link back to the site.

That doesn't have to be the case; a social network, blog, or microsite could serve as a hub, or it may be a decentralized approach without a hub but with the pieces still connecting together. For Super Bowl advertisers, their hub tended to be either their homepage or a page within their main site. Brands with an active presence in social media had an opportunity to direct consumers to their social channels from their sites, yet that's where a number of marketers fell short.

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2) The spot was just the beginning of the experience. Volkswagen best illustrated this by running a punching commercial with a callout to "play punchdub at vw.com," where a Facebook-centric game allowed visitors to send virtual punches to friends. The TV spot works on its own without a Web component, but the social addition may extend the life of the campaign much further.

3) There was a failure to integrate. Integration of any sort remains a hurdle for most marketers. I'm referring to integration broadly because it's a stumbling block in just about every possible way: traditional and digital, paid and earned media, paid and natural search, bringing various agencies together during the planning - the list can go on. It's a safe bet that the challenges of integration and a lack of communication prevented some of these ads from being more social.

4) Social media informed which ad ran. I love this quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt on Google's blog (which I found out about through MediaPost's Online Media Daily): "We didn't set out to do a Super Bowl ad, or even a TV ad for search. Our goal was simply to create a series of short online videos about our products and our users, and how they interact. But we liked this video so much, and it's had such a positive reaction on YouTube, that we decided to share it with a wider audience." In short, Google did its market research and felt it could boost the impact of its videos by running it on TV.

5) The ads themselves were use- generated. I'm referring to the Doritos ads, which outnumbered the total of touchdowns from both teams last night. The user-generated and selected ads could have had more social tie-ins, but that's missing the bigger picture. It's also telling that the whole concept of user-generated advertising hasn't taken over. Overall, the spots were more of the same professionally produced sketches of anthropomorphized animals, celebrity guest stints, ironic slapstick, and near-nudity (from Megan Fox to guys in tightie whities) that we've come to know, love, and forget about two days later.

6) The focus was on listening. Here's a headline I hope is never again newsworthy, via Computerworld: "Intel to monitor social networks on Super Bowl ads." I give Intel credit for sharing what it's doing. Intel spokesperson David Veneski told Computerworld, "It's the first time [Intel has] gauged audience reaction around an event by using social networks." One would think that with an investment of $2.5 million per half minute, this is part of the cost of doing business . The cost of one second of Super Bowl airtime ($83,000) can buy a year of premium access to most social media monitoring tools, and several months of analysis from most service providers. This is the last year to let this story pass for news.

7) The order was reversed: social media promoted the ads. A funny thing happened on the way to the Super Bowl: brands from Coca-Cola to Bud Light used social media to plug their Super Bowl spots. This can seem counterintuitive; this year's Super Bowl was watched by over 100 million viewers nationally, so it's not like the ads need promoting. Yet brands took advantage of their social channels to extend the experience, whether by pushing out Facebook status updates, live tweeting during the game, or using digital word of mouth to spread the word before and after.

8) The ad was about social media. In one ad Megan Fox used mobile social media to cause worldwide havoc, while in another Vizio plugged getting Twitter and Flickr on your TV (giving Twitter a potential new slogan: "what to watch when 'Jersey Shore'reruns aren't on"). So yes, I counted as many ads about social media as I did ads about men in underwear. What a milestone.

9) The ads were for Web sites. If a marketer is trying to get you to a Web site (Godaddy, Monster, Google, TV.com, CarMax, Cars.com, HomeAway, Teleflora), going to their social presence on a different site would be counterproductive.

10) They just forgot. Hey, it happens. As the Colts know too well, there's always next year. And unlike the Colts, marketers can spend a few million bucks to guarantee their spot in the game.

Lastly, thanks to a number of Twitter friends for bandying around a few thoughts on the ads during the game: Reprise_Media, StacyGratz, dwag29, yeahthatskosher, 4GreenPs, inakiescudero, jaymandel, natashaF8, getshust, persia13, and aarongoldman.

3 comments about "The Antisocial Bowl".
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  1. Aaron Goldman from 4C, February 9, 2010 at 1:34 p.m.

    Great recap, David. There was another antisocial phenomenon at play during the SuperBowl, though. As I lamented (over Twitter, of course), there once was a time when I actually talked about the SB ads with the folks at the party with me. This year, I tuned out everyone in the room and just chatted it up with the #BrandBowl tweeps.

  2. Todd Newton, February 9, 2010 at 2 p.m.

    With the way Twitter "broke" every time something happened, I'm not sure focusing on social media would have helped a whole bunch.

  3. Kelly Mcivor from Atomic Mobile, February 10, 2010 at 11:43 p.m.

    Well, you know the lack of social wasn't because there was so much mobile. Mobile marketing, aside from the marketing of mobile, was non-existent. There was nothing you could do on your mobile while the rest of the crew watched ads. Nothing. Very disappointing.

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