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Super Bowl Advertisers Tap Social Media

  |  February 11, 2010   |  Comments

The vast majority of advertisers embraced social media this year to give audiences a preview of their Super Bowl ad.

It used to be that consumers had to wait until the Super Bowl was over to get a second look (or first, depending on which country you're watching in) at some of the most interesting TV spots of the year. They'd be posted online after the big game, easily accessible to a world of viewers. Aside from a chance preview on the local news, however, you'd be lucky if you knew a single thing about them prior to that.

One could argue that keeping the content of the ads a mystery gave them a little more caché and built up anticipation. But we now live in a world where digital media provides instant gratification, and today's approach differs dramatically. You needn't wait for the game to preview what its advertisers have in store; just make your way over to their brand site or Facebook Page a few days (in some cases, up to a few weeks) in advance to watch what they're paying CBS up to $3 million for you to see on Super Bowl Sunday.

To generate pre-game buzz about their ads and get consumers actively watching for them, this is the approach many brands now take. This year nearly every participating advertiser - from Cars.com to E*Trade and Snickers - modified their standard home page design to highlight a link to their ad on a custom-made Super Bowl microsite, often also offering additional footage there that didn't make it into the spot.

What's of particular interest is how they also employed social media, whether to poll consumers to determine how well their ads were received, or to drive additional traffic to Facebook where they could actively engage with their potential customers - something that TV simply can't facilitate. The notion of inciting consumer participation has already been explored by Super Bowl advertisers (Doritos has been airing consumer-generated ads since 2007 with its "Crash the Super Bowl" campaign), but this year's advertisers employed some even smarter tactics for tapping the social community.

Brands Make a Play for Polls

Not all of the ads Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser brand aired during the game were a shoe-in. Prior to making its decision on which spots to run, the brand uploaded three possibilities to its Facebook Page and asked fans to vote on their favorite. While there, they could also vote for their favorite Bud ad from previous years.

After users voted, they were given the option of posting their selection to their own Facebook Wall. Because Facebook users had to become a fan of the brand in order to vote on the ads, the strategy also helped to increase Budweiser's volume of fans (up to nearly 270,000 by the last count). The brand drove traffic to the voting page with a media buy on the site that included news stream advertising.

Hyundai, too, asked consumers to vote for their favorite ad. In this case, the options were limited to the numerous Hyundai spots that ran during the game, giving consumers the impetus to watch them all again.

Like Doritos, CareerBuilder asked its users to create commercials for the game with its "Hire My TV Ad" contest, whereby user votes determined the winner. While the brand could have done more to capitalize on the reach of its Facebook Page - 84,000 fans and counting - by posting an update to promote the ad and contest the day of the Super Bowl, it did offer users access to a special content section that linked to the winning ad as well as other finalists.

Going Deep to Drive Traffic

To generate additional traffic for the social sites and online communities that have been integrated into their marketing strategies, several brands enhanced their Super Bowl microsites with social content, and in turn added promotional content from their brand sites to their social efforts. On Dockers.com, the brand highlighted its Twitter presence, posting a feed from its Twitter account and inviting site visitors to start following the brand. Denny's, meanwhile, linked to both its Facebook Page and its YouTube channel to encourage consumers to further interact with the brand, as well as to introduce them to the glut of ad-related content that is now present there.

Given the relatively slow adoption rate of social media among major brands like these, it's encouraging to see that the vast majority of Super Bowl advertisers fully embraced this branch of digital media. It may have taken some of the secrecy out of Super Bowl Sunday, but it also took some of the guesswork out of how to bridge the gap between TV promotion and effectively connecting with consumers online.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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