For as long as I can remember, the ads are as much a reason to watch the game, as the game itself. USA Today is celebrating its 25th year of Ad Meter, its measurement of consumer favorite SuperBowl ads. One of the worst SuperBowls I watched was many time zones away on AFRTS. No commercials, and the late hour meant I was asleep by half time.
But there has been growing marketing discontent with the cost of the ad ($ 4 million for 30 second ad this year plus cost of production) and the lack of measurement whether the investment was worthwhile. Branding consultant Rob Frankel was quoted last year “Super Bowl spots have become memorable for their presentation but forgettable in terms of what they're trying to persuade consumers to buy”. Along with the cost of private planes and country club memberships, many executives wince when you bring up their ad, even if you were being complimentary.
In the last couple of years, the tide has turned, thanks to social media.
Firstly, it extends the shelf life of the message beyond the 30 or 60 seconds during the game. In the past you could do that by buying repeat TV slots after the event. With social media, the message starts days earlier – notice the buzz Volkswagen has picked up this week with commentators arguing if its planned Get Happy ad is racist with its Jamaican accents. The message is also cheaper to extend via YouTube channels, and pointers to Facebook pages in the ads.
Social media gets more fans involved, instead of just hoping they don’t take bathroom breaks when your commercial airs. In the 2011 Super Bowl Mercedes had four teams racing to Dallas (where the Super Bowl was being held) in Mercedes cars, fueled by how many times fans tweeted using the hashtag of their celebrity-led teams (Serena Williams, Rev Run, Nick Swisher, and Pete Wentz) from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Tampa in specially equipped Mercedes vehicles. Tools like Shazam allow for much more interactive customer participation across the ‘three screens’
Social media offers tons more analytical data than the Nielsen TV ratings of old. Look at the wide range of sentiment, influencer and other social metrics this article describes
But….all this social monitoring means command centers, more budget for your digital agency, investment in social marketing software. In the meantime, the cost of the 30 second commercial keeps going up, and some companies are buying more slots per game. Indeed for some companies, the Super Bowl is the largest single line item in their annual marketing budget.
So Frankel’s point is still valid – is your message making customers buy more? Are we closer to identifying which 50% of advertising budgets are wasted?
Somewhere in that Big Data of social analytics lies the answer. Maybe.
For now, let’s enjoy the Game on all three screens.