Is cross-media marketing important to advertising success? Ask any of this year's Super Bowl advertisers and you're likely to get more yes's than ever before. With each passing year, marketers seem to make more of an effort to tie interactive media into their Super Bowl TV spots. But not all ads are created equal. Take a closer look and you'll find four distinct levels of effort – in essence, four levels of expected and intended consumer engagement.
The most common method of driving traffic from television to the Web has been the inclusion of a URL at the end of the TV spot. In this way, brands can indicate to viewers that there was more information to be had online, and encourage them to carry on the brand conversation there. Over time this precipitated more sophisticated cross-media efforts. Advertisers started to include a unique URL (instead of the brand or product Web address), invite viewers to participate in related online marketing efforts like contests or partake of special offers and events on the Web, and most recently, ask consumers to display their brand affiliation on social media sites. It's been a relatively smooth progression from brand site promotion to brand promotion on the Web, motivated by media consumption habits and sustained by results.
Why, then, do some advertisers choose to revert to the days of old while others take great pains to create an online experience that extends far beyond the big game? Let's take a look at the four options that exist for brand advertisers and a few examples of each in action.
Level One: Having Faith in Brand Legacy
If you watched Volkswagen's "Darth Vader Kid" commercial, Coca Cola's "Dragon" spot, and Budweiser's Bud Light "Hack Job" ad with a critical digital marketing eye, you surely noticed the marked absence of a URL. None of these brands made any effort to drive viewers online or even indicate that they had a Web presence. Could this have been an oversight – a mistake made by three such major brands and historically innovative digital advertisers? Not a chance. They made a conscious decision to omit the Web from their commercials, and it's precisely because they're established international companies that they can pull it off. All have sunk so much money into digital marketing that they've created an online legacy for themselves that will easily endure a slight in a single TV spot. Consumers know exactly how and where to find them. And if they didn't have any one digital effort to promote during the game, one could argue they were justified in promoting none at all.
Level Two: Demonstrating Digital Prowess
For those brands eager to display their digital marketing prowess and demonstrate to consumers that they are, in fact, well-aware of the Web and making an effort to familiarize themselves with it, the promotion of a unique URL is a popular strategy. Pepsi's "Can Thrower" ad is a valid example of this. The spot ended with a call to visit the Pepsi Max Facebook page, where consumers can get more product information and show their allegiance to the brand. Pepsi surely chose this cross-media approach over driving viewers to its standard product page in order to boost social media interaction and underscore its dedication to digital media.
Level Three: Demonstrating Digital Expertise
Where Pepsi's efforts stopped, brands like Bridgestone's began. Instead of simply pointing viewers to an existing Facebook page, Bridgestone led them to a dedicated Super Bowl site page packed with a Twitter feed, Facebook fan count, YouTube links, and exclusive video. Bridgestone took the next step in engaging consumers by giving them the Web-based brand experience in one neat package, and illustrating its multi-pronged digital media approach in one fell swoop. If showing consumers that you have a social media presence is good, the logic goes that displaying your understanding of all major social media platforms is better. Bridgestone's Super Bowl microsite represents a full-immersion lesson in the brand's dedication to connecting with its customers online.
Level Four: Creating a Complete Experience Online
The one thing that the third level of Super Bowl cross-media advertising is missing is the delivery of an entirely new and self-sustained digital experience. Doritos is known for mastering this approach with its consumer-generated Crash the Super Bowl ad creation contest, but even it neglected to inform viewers within the TV spots that they were, in fact, the product of consumer participation, thus missing out on an opportunity to leverage this innovative campaign. Points in this category go instead to Audi, which included a Twitter hashtag at the end of its "Release the Hounds" ad to drive viewers to a Twitter-based social media contest, and GoDaddy.co for using its spot as a teaser for a story that was continued on its site ("See what happens next, at GoDaddy.co").
Whether buying media in the Super Bowl or not, digital marketers have a lot to learn from these titans of TV and their varied approaches to incorporating the Web into their ads.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.