If it doesn't run on TV, can it still be considered a Super Bowl commercial? That's the question that Ciroc, the vodka from hip hop impresario Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, set out to answer last month.
Working with its in-house ad agency, Blue Flame, Ciroc created a series of 15-second videos featuring Combs doing things you wouldn't expect of him, like bull fighting and curling.
One of the ads showed Combs dancing salsa – a nod to the salsa dance that Victor Cruz, wide receiver for the New York Giants, performs every time he scores a touchdown.
When Cruz scored his first touchdown in the Super Bowl, Ciroc and Combs leapt into action: They tweeted the salsa ad and dedicated it to Cruz.
"This Commercial is dedicated to Victor Cruz one of the first NFL Latino Superstars. All in FUN," read one of the many tweets that Combs sent out about the ads during the game.
"We waited until he scored the touchdown to debut that first video," said Aubrey Flynn (left), brand content director at Blue Flame in New York.
At that same moment, rich media banners went live on the Say Media network. The ads led to a microsite containing all four of the videos in the series, along with various interactive features. After watching the videos, viewers could leave a comment on the site, send a tweet directly to Mr. Combs (some of which he replied to) or share the videos on Facebook and Twitter.
The rich media ads were featured on sports-focused sections of Say's network.
"We wanted to convert this passive TV audience into a more engaged online audience,," said Flynn. The idea was "to make it that much more engaging to people who might be tuned in to the TV, so we decided the context should be relevant. Hence the salsa moment."
In three days, the ads logged 1.3 million impressions, with an average time spent of 25.5 seconds. The rate of mobile clicks to the site was 11 percent, and the ad units spurred more than 4,000 conversations.
Flynn said the videos were never intended to run as actual Super Bowl commercials, though at least one did appear as a TV commercial during other programming. "Our campaign was about introducing our tag line, Perfectly Smooth, in a new and entertaining way," he said. "The idea was to do something that had never been done before.
Here's what the interactive ad experience on Say Media's network looks like:
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
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