‘Social’ Super Bowl Ads Connect on Twitter – But Were They Effective?

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February 6, 2012 – 12:59 am

Attention advertisers: Live by Twitter, die by Twitter. Or worse, be buried in the clutter of the conversation.

As expected, Twitter users had one eye on NBC Universal's Super Bowl XLVI broadcast and other on their feeds throughout a consistently close game that kept interest high until the Giants beat the Patriots 21-17. As is natural for social media, a great of commentary tended toward complaining about the advertising and the halftime show featuring Madonna.

It'll probably take another day or two to sort out the ad winners and losers, but interactive agency Deep Focus presented a "social scoring chart" for the Super Bowl ads, which ranked 43 ads that ran during the game according to how well brands used social media to "activate, engage, and even reward the viewers."

While only a handful of people voted, the winner as of midnight was Bud Light's Rescue Dog spot (alert: this is not scientific. The spot got four stars based on 13 votes). But as Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer tells TVExchanger, don't blame it on Twitter: blame it on the persistent uncertainty of how to get users to substantively connect and engage viewers via social media.

"Brands continue to think we are really going to use their taglines as hashtags," Schafer said in email message. "It’s more likely we use elements of those ads that pop – the trouble will always be association, remembering not only what the spot was for, but what the hashtag was for.

"Super Bowl ads continue to end, rather than begin something bigger," Schafer continued. "I’d love to see brand offer value in exchange for starting that relationship, rather than a big sell. None of the ads got anyone to take action. They expected people would. If it were me pulling the strings, I would have used one spot to mobilize Twitter users, and another to activate them. Tell a story WITH people – not just to people."

Clearly, social media users were very interested in discussing the spots.

As of midnight eastern time on Sunday, the Super Bowl attracted 11.5 million comments across Twitter, Facebook and blogs, according to social TV data provider Bluefin Labs.

Putting that number in context, that's 6.4 times more than last year's 1.8 million comments. The 11.5 million figure is "preliminary" because Bluefin counts social activity for 3 hours after the telecast ends to account for residual buzz. But it's safe to say the final number will end up in the 12 million or maybe 13 million range.

To put it in perspective, looking at recent mid-season premieres this January 2012 vs. January 2011:
·         Desperate Housewives: +836 percent over last year

·         Parks & Recreation: +739 percent over last year

·         American Idol: +597 percent over last year

·         The Halftime Show alone accounted for 862K social media comments; on par with 2011 Academy Awards

·         Madonna's halftime show drove a huge flurry of social media activity. The 862K social media comments for the halftime show puts it on par with the 2011 Academy Awards (966K comments).

Twitter itself came out with a few stats about usage and it only confirmed the high level of activity: Madonna's performance during the Super Bowl's halftime show saw an average of 8,000 Tweets per second for five minutes. In the final three minutes of the big game, there were an average of 10,000 tweets per second.

Given those kinds of numbers, how is any advertiser supposed to sort through such an avalanche of voices all speaking at once. Certainly, marketers will be thinking about that over the next 12 months. In the meantime, the best opportunity advertisers and agencies have is to see what they can do to capture any lingering interest and conversations around the Super Bowl ads.

For the most part, marketers tended to play it pretty safe -- there were no major disasters like last year's Groupon ad, which has now become a case study in how tough it is to attempt irony when its ad that purported to lampoon self-righteousness and hypocrisy about human rights issues blew up in its face.

For the most part, there were the usual spots featuring clever dogs, chimps talking babies. Even the sexploitation was comparatively even-handed, as female viewers were treated to soccer star David Beckham in an underwear ad and a stripping M&M figure. Still, the sexiness was mostly aimed at the guys, though instead of anonymous babes in bikinis (though they were there), model Adriana Lima was the star of two ads, one for florist Teleflora and another for Korean car maker Kia, where she appeared alongsid '80s metal warhorses Motley Crue, MMA fighter Chuck Liddell and a stadium of bikini babes.

The one emotional standout was the Chrysler ad, titled It's Halftime In America, featuring Clint Eastwood's tribute to the American auto industry's revival.

These ads all cost marketers between $3.5- and $4 million. And some of those dollars will be devoted to seeing how much of a shelf life they get on YouTube, Hulu (which also had its own Super Bowl commercials channel called AdZone and even bought some for ads promoting its Hulu Plus subscription service starring Arrested Development's Will Arnett).

It's probably too early for marketers to adjust their social media focus in time for the Oscar's, the next big TV ad event, but don't be surprised if agencies are tweaking their monitoring up until the last minute of that Feb. 26th broadcast.

Updated: The morning after the Super Bowl, the most popular lists have come out and Doritos' Man's Best Friend spot topped USA Today's AdMeter and TiVo's respective lists. Hulu viewers were a little different as Volkswagon's The Bark Side beat out Honda's Ferris Bueller tribute starring Mathew Broderick (read Hulu's complete lists of its viewers' ad picks here).

Citing Nielsen stats, NBCU says that the Super Bowl XLVI earned a 47.8/71 overnight rating/share, the third-highest overnight rating in Super Bowl history and less than one percent off the highest (47.9 for both Super Bowl XLV and Super Bowl XXI), according to overnight data released today by The Nielsen Company.

As for the live streaming data, NBCU reps say they will release those details tomorrow.

By David Kaplan

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February 6, 2012 – 12:59 am

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