I love Super Bowl ad season. It's the one seminal event at which big money and brand reputation are really on the line. And when big money's on the line, marketers don't have a choice but to think of all the marketing tactics and strategies that might increase success for that single $2.6 million investment.
Or am I giving CMOs too much credit?
In truth, only recently have marketers started to fortify this monster spend with marketing "reach and engagement vitamins" (REV). But at the end of the day, few game advertisers are even close to taking the vitamins they need to fortify their full return on the investment. There's irony here, as marketing chiefs constantly refer to their Super Bowl ads as so much more than just a media buy.
The Database of Unmet Intentions
Marketers typically fall short in thinking holistically about consumer behavior before, when, and after the ad is shown, then acting on consumers' very clear signals, intentions, and aspirations. In a world of growing consumer empowerment, we must embrace the fact that they're one click, search, visit, or discussion away from reinforcing the ad stimulus. That's why listening is so fundamentally strategic today.
The good news is there's a definitive and growing list of best practices advertisers can implement now. Yes, the Super Bowl's looming, but some of these require as little as a phone call, quick memo, or even long-overdue huddle with your cross-functional marketing stakeholders.
Here's my list of must-take steps to REV up your Super Bowl ROI:
Lube the tubes. Within seconds of your ad hitting the airways, make sure it's available on YouTube, Google Video, Revver, iFilm, NFL.com, Heavy.com, and other venues consumers treat as DVR surrogates. Repeat exposure, after all, is as proven as stretching before exercising, and deeper engagement around the ad via ratings, comments, and even video responses is even better. Again, this is the one day when consumers celebrate and relish advertising -- savor the moment! If you don't put the spot up immediately, site users will. That carries the risk of the occasional joker subverting the intended meaning. Remember, YouTube spots are great for embedding in blogs, further enabling your audience to become a reach platform. Just think about Dove's "Evolution."
Prime your Web site. More consumers than ever surf to brand Web sites while watching TV, and they intuitively assume your site will reinforce the TV message. Be ready for them, and don't forget to write the internal memo to the lonely Web team. They, too, are stakeholders in this process. In particular, ensure the ad is readily available on the home page, front and center, by kickoff. Include the same embedding capability as YouTube. Last year, Gillette had three ads for the breakthrough Fusion Razor, but the Web site wasn't ready by kickoff.
Embrace the megaphones. If you aren't collecting feedback on your coveted ad, your brand is missing a golden opportunity to build a massive database of influencers. Consumers who take the time to provide feedback are the same ones who blog, post videos to YouTube, and talk up a storm around the water cooler. They'll come in next time you launch a new product. Oh, and they have wickedly insightful opinions. If an offline ad triggers some level of consumer engagement, open the door, smile, and start a conversation. Last year, few advertisers rolled out a genuine welcome mat, including quite a few brands whose marketing execs were talking up a storm about blogs and conversations. Let's be consistent, folks!
Anticipate and service obvious questions. Great advertising should trigger questions, so ensure the FAQ engine is well fed with relevant content and answers. Make sure the query "tv advertising" is optimized for customized ad feedback. And ensure your call center reps have a few talking points about the ads. Close to $3 million is a good excuse to enroll other parties who touch consumers.
Feed the search seekers. There's irrefutable proof consumers love search engines, so think hard about how they might search your ad on Google and be prepared to satisfy their need. If you're CareerBuilder, expect consumers to type "monkeys" into Google. If you're Budweiser, expect lots of searches on words like "clydesdales" and "horse spots." Ride John Batelle's "database of intentions" and think about buying spot-centric keywords. Don't freak out about price. You'll get a great click rate for "monkeys" relative to other, more competitive terms.
Service the site search. Apply the same philosophy to your brand site search. You'll look stupid if your site search engine fires blanks on no-brainer terms like "super bowl ads," and your CEO will cry bloody murder if no one can find the ad in your own backyard. Ironically, some of last years advertisers, among them Burger King, Ameriquest, Taco Bell, and otherwise cross-promotion-rich Budweiser, didn't even have basic search on their sites.
Stretch the story. Building on curiosity, take consumers to the next level of engagement. Several years back, Reebok's Terry Tate Office Linebacker campaign reaped a massive harvest of consumer-generated media (CGM) from the Super Bowl ad, aided in large measure by superb cross-channel marketing. And there were those who had standalone Web sites dedicated to promoting the ads, including Burger King's Whopperettes, Pepsi's Brown and Bubbly, and MasterCard. A few, including Budweiser and Sprint Nextel, commendably facilitated downloading ads to iPods, phones, or other MP3 devices. All this extends the story and deepens engagement.
Exploit the extras. What makes a great movie DVD? We love extras like interviews with the director. Surely with a $2.6 million spot, there's a few things on the cutting-room floor to exploit for your enthusiasts. This might include old copy reels from previous years, outtakes of ads that didn't make the final cut, or even a podcast with one of the celebrities featured in the ad. One great benefit behind the brands inviting consumers to create the Super Bowl ad is they build a massive archive of online extras for deeper viewer engagement. Short of that, every advertisers has plenty to work with.
Enable the handoff -- for everyone. Make it really simple for consumers to share ad copy with others and even to embed the ad, jingle, or other content elements into their own CGM. The secret of video spread on the Web is how easy video platforms make it for consumer to embed videos on their own blogs and MySpace pages. At minimum, have send-to-a-friend links on the site, and make sure you enable consumers to watch and share the ad in a diversity of formats: Flash, QuickTime, MP4, Windows Media, and so on. Don't be monolithic or stereotypical about your audience. Everyone watches Super Bowl ads, so don't forget to provide passalong guidance and guidance in Spanish.
Listen, sense, and respond on the fly. Stay in tune to the conversation, especially via such CGM venues as blogs, message boards, forums, and consumer-generated multimedia (CGM2) venues like YouTube. Share the data with key teams that can act on the big insights as quickly as possible. If bloggers are complaining about finding your ad, help them out.
Note, there a few things game advertisers have absolutely no control over. In recent years, key network programming decisions have negatively affected total buzz and consumer engagement. In 2004, Janet Jackson's costume escapade cannibalized the vast majority of consumer ad attention and engagement. The following year, Fox's decision to cancel the second GoDaddy ad siphoned the vast majority of buzz and post-game PR from other brands. One critical benefit of measurements, especially CGM analysis, is that they provide an accountability measure to go back to the networks with to complain or make amends.
To be clear, there's nothing wrong with a Super Bowl ad. Just make darn sure you're getting your money's worth. We're quickly entering a platform-agnostic marketing world where the entire mix, not just one element, conspires to create ROI (define) for brands.
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Pete Blackshaw, whose professional background encompasses public policy, interactive marketing, and brand management, is executive vice president of strategic services for Nielsen Online, a combination of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a firm Pete helped cofound, and Nielsen//NetRatings. One of Pete's key focuses is helping brands interpret, manage, and act on consumer-generated media (CGM). A former interactive marketing leader at P&G and founder of consumer feedback portal PlanetFeedback.com, Pete cofounded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). He authors several blogs, including ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com, and is the author of an upcoming book from Random House, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World."