Alex Cecala, Research Associate, and Gary Levison, Research Associate, from Ketchum’s Global Research Network also contributed to this post.
In the past week and a half, a lot of ink has been spilled over the magnitude of this year’s Super Bowl audience. However, despite all that’s been written about the game and ads alike, I still think there is one aspect of Super Bowl XLV that demands more attention. Super Bowl XLV didn’t just make media history – it made marketing history. It inaugurated a whole new strategic paradigm in which the old boundaries between online and offline as well as paid and earned no longer stand.
At the core of this new emerging paradigm is the leveraging of owned social media properties online to drive impressions of paid content offline, which are in turn configured to drive earned social media impressions online. Most brands executed this strategy in three phases. First, they released their ads prior to the game on YouTube. Second, they aired the ads in 30-second spots during the game. Third, they integrated Facebook profile URLs and Twitter hashtags in their TV ads.
However, what was most remarkable about this new regime wasn’t just its emergence as a common strategy, but also its astonishing success. Ketchum’s Global Research Network took a cursory glance at the statistics that came out of the campaigns, and what we found was not only that the new integrated campaigns worked, but that they were in fact the most successful campaigns during the game, leaving the more traditional campaigns in the virtual dust.
Four of the top five ads in USA Today‘s Ad Meter, a panel of consumers that rates ads as they air during the game, executed campaigns using the new integrated cross-media paradigm. VW’s “The Force” commercial had 13 million YouTube views at the start of Sunday’s game. Three days after the game, the commercial had 23 million views. The brand supported the ad campaign by sending messages to fans on its blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. Doritos and PepsiMax ran the “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign again this year and together garnered 3 million views prior to kickoff. By the Wednesday after the game, there were 8 million views. The campaign allowed consumers to create and vote for content they wanted to see during the game. Meanwhile, Bud Light’s “Dog Sitter” commercial, which was selected as the Super Bowl’s top commercial by the Ad Meter and was the only commercial among the top five to not use an untraditional component, had slightly more than 800,000 views on YouTube by the Wednesday after the game.
The implications of this new phenomenon are threefold. First, they strongly suggest that social media consumption has reached a critical mass such that brand marketers are fully recognizing it as a necessary component of the overall media mix during the single largest media event of the year and (in this case) of all time. Second, they indicate that brand marketers are also taking into full account the fact of media multitasking as a common reality of mass media consumption. Third, brand marketers are beginning to fully comprehend the reality of the virtual living room which extends from the actual living room deep into cyberspace.
The disruption of the paid-earned dichotomy inherent in this new model might worry some folks in PR. After all, buzz generation has always been PR’s role, and some might fear that ad agencies are trying to hijack earned media in this new world of hybrid strategy. However, this actually bodes well for PR pros. Social media is now a central component in this new strategy since it not only drives online buzz but also drives paid impressions offline. Moreover, no one knows social media, the realm of earned media par excellence, than PR pros. To navigate this realm and achieve their marketing objectives, brands and their ad agencies need PR’s help more than ever. As more campaigns become increasingly integrated, involving wider arrays of touch points that include both earned and paid, ads and PR pros need to work together more closely than ever before to create successful programs that leverage these synergies to gauge performance against clients’ marketing and business goals.