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Brands Take Super Risks With Social Media

  |  February 9, 2012   |  Comments

Some of the approaches employed in this year's Super Bowl ads might be a little unorthodox, but the potential payoff stands to send the companies' exposure into overtime.

Another Super Bowl is behind us, and advertisers eagerly wait to see whether the hard work of their brand managers and agencies has paid off. This year we saw many common themes (sex, animals, and cute babies come to mind), but we also saw advertisers take some risks. Audi may be criticized for missing the boat with its "Vampire Party" ad, but isn't the automaker just capitalizing on its recent association with the "Twilight" saga of films and the female demographic known to buy its cars? Fiat's "Seduction" spot may have been more sizzle than steak, but I'd wager nobody who saw it will look at the car quite the same way again.

Risky strategies revealed themselves elsewhere as well, particularly in the way that advertisers utilized social media. The Guardian may have put it best in its wrap-up of the game's ads with the sentiment, "When every spot wins the ratings war, the battle moves on to winning the Twitter spike." And what a battle it is. Capturing as many eyeballs as possible on TV is only the first part of the equation; the ultimate goal, at least within the hours and days following the Big Game, is to get consumers talking in the social space.

Some of the approaches employed this year might be a little unorthodox. The potential payoff, however, stands to send their exposure into overtime.

It All Comes Back to Social…but How Soon Is Best?

By now, most Super Bowl advertisers are incorporating some kind of Internet call to action into their commercial spots. Some drive them directly to Facebook, or to Twitter by featuring a hashtag. This year we saw others experiment by adding a second step. In its "Performance Basketball" spot, Bridgestone drove viewers to its brand site, only to redirect them to its Facebook page through a prominent home page image and link.


It's a bold strategy, but it makes sense. A brand's Facebook page can only deliver so much product information. Sure, it's a great place to leverage the message delivered in the Super Bowl spot, but what's the likelihood that will translate into immediate sales? Directing consumers to the brand page first creates a filter that serves to qualify potential customers and distinguish them from the oglers. Those merely interested in the Super Bowl message can go to Facebook to view more ads. Those who are genuinely interested in the product, meanwhile, find themselves exactly where they need to be to find out more.

The Strategic Use of Facebook Ads for Building Post-Game Buzz

Facebook played an essential role in generating excitement about countless Super Bowl spots this year. Brands that leaked their ads early on used the platform to increase awareness of their upcoming spot and to encourage online sharing. When the game is over, brands still rely on the site to keep the conversation flowing, but this effort goes beyond a branded Facebook page crammed with additional ads relating to the Super Bowl message. Or at least, it should.

One way to ensure brand interaction doesn't end with a visit to one's Facebook page is through online advertising. Sponsored Facebook ads can be used to drive users to places where they can vote for their favorite ads, thus allowing companies the opportunity to further encourage brand affinity and support. This also gives consumers a place to go once their interest in your Facebook content has waned, and with careful ad targeting, can even lure potential customers away from other advertisers.

Instead of driving consumers to its own Facebook presence, for example, Cars.com used a portion of its post-game Facebook ads to channel them to USA Today's "Super Bowl Ad Meter," a Facebook app that allows users to rank this year's ads. In this way, the automotive research company can invite users to watch the ads again and to cast their vote, all in one place.

To further cement its Super Bowl message (and brand mantra) of "Confidence Comes Standard," Cars.com is running additional Facebook ads asking users to share what makes them confident in association with its Cars.com Cares charity campaign.

It's tough to justify taking risks when there's a multi-million dollar investment on the line, but these brands prove that it can be done…and that it makes the game so much more interesting.

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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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