To work in an age of elusive consumer attention, TV advertising needs reinforcement, assistance, and a little engagement.
Can a brand maximize ROI (define) on a major product launch or TV ad campaign without the active assistance of cross-platform "echo effect" tools, such as brand Web sites?
Equally important, who bears accountability for proper alignment of marketing programs to ensure one campaign element reinforces, complements, and synergizes with the other?
These questions are timely, coming less than 48 hours after the world's top brands dropped more than $200 million on Super Bowl ads. As usual, brand Web sites saw precious little, if any, of that spending. It definitely showed. At the end of the day, the lack of cross-platform integration not only limited the scope of latent "free" impressions, but also denied plenty of consumers looking to bond or engage or even have a conversation with the brand.
In fairness, 2006 represents an improvement over 2005, when fewer than half the Super Bowl advertisers mentioned or promoted their Super Bowl ads on their Web sites. This year, brands such as FedEx, Sierra Mist, Ford, Cadillac, ESPN Mobile, Pizza Hut, CareerBuilder.com, and Budweiser actively promoted their ads on their sites.
Then there were those who had standalone Web sites dedicated to promoting the ads, including Burger King's Whopperettes, Pepsi's Brown & Bubbly, and MasterCard. A few, including Budweiser and Sprint Nextel, commendably facilitated the downloading ads to iPods, phones, or other MP3 devices.
Still, when I used their search engines to query "Super Bowl Ad," most brand sites either fired blanks or buried the ads under a sea of irrelevant search results.
A query is at least better than no query, as many of this year's advertisers didn't even have basic search on their sites, including Burger King, Ameriquest, Taco Bell, and otherwise cross-promotion-rich Budweiser.
Helpful to most brands this year was a dramatic ramp-up of online aggregators that promoted ads online for playback. Third-party sites such as NFL.com, AOL, Heavy.com, and iFilm did their part to encourage repeat exposure of the advertising, even ad outtakes that never made it on the game. Broadband penetration played a big role here.
Brands also missed opportunities to exploit their sites to establish more meaningful conversations or connections with consumers. If an offline ad triggers some level of consumer engagement, open the door, smile, and start a conversation. Surprisingly, especially with all the "we need to start a brand blog" hoopla, very few advertisers sought to solicit reactions, feelings, or feedback from consumers about their ads. This is a huge missed opportunity to deepen loyalty among enthusiasts and drive word of mouth.
Gillette's Marketing Fusion: The Razor's Edge?
Gillette Fusion stood out as an example of a very prominent Super Bowl advertiser that missed some key opportunities to exploit cross-platform synergy. The brand is reportedly putting nearly $100 million behind one of the year's biggest marketing launches, the five-blade Fusion Razor, and over $5 million of the TV budget was dedicated to the Super Bowl.
The ads were memorable, but I was a bit disappointed over the dearth of meaningful product-related content online. It was just underwhelming. Fusion isn't your run-of-the-mill consumer-packaged goods (CPG) product. It's positioned as a high-tech product, a point punctuated by its early review on the gadget-centric blog Gizmodo.
Equally important, the product is targeted to a demographic among the most overrepresented and involved on the Web. Indeed, the guys who pay premiums for high-tech razors are one of the most viral segments in the marketplace and create unusually high levels of consumer-generated media on blogs, message boards, forums, and other venues. Curiously, the site dedicated to the launch, a time when consumers have the highest information needs, has far less content or functionality and is far less engaging than Unilever's Dove and Campaign for Real Beauty sites. How could that be?
In fairness, I'm an active, if not enthusiastic, user of Gillette products. But loyalty carries high expectations. The physical product simply isn't enough. Like millions of other consumers, I also value the experience that wraps around the brand, especially when technology is positioned as a core benefit. Such experiences are especially critical when a product launches.
From Confusion to Real Fusion
But there's hope. If anything, consumers actively seeking the ads online before, during, and after the Super Bowl game, wherever and however they can (e.g., iPods or other MP3 devices), illustrates the tremendous opportunity for marketers.
Moreover, the cost and time barriers to entry are much lower. To illustrate my point, I quickly built a Web site centered on male cleanliness entitled, ManMadeCleaner.com, with the tag line "There's Always Room to Groom." It sits on an inexpensive blog platform and includes video, photos, text, and plenty of information, including a few thoughts on my recently purchased Fusion razor.
Realistically, great Web sites require some level of investment. There's certainly a time commitment in the legal review, branding, and creative development, but this is peanuts compared to the production cost of a single TV ad. What we should be really thinking about is how that small investment will ensure the bigger, more costly investment of TV advertising -- whether it's a major Super Bowl ad, an Olympic campaign, or a new product introduction -- lives up to its full consumer-generated media (CGM) potential.
TV advertising is hardly dead, but to work in this age of elusive consumer attention, it needs reinforcement, assistance, and, yes, an outlet for engagement.
Web sites are a great place to start reengaging and, in the process, drive more fusion with marketing procedures.
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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."
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