Super Bowl Buzz Measures Vary Along With Value to Advertisers

The goal of many Super Bowl advertisers in recent years has been not only to make a splash during TV ad time, but to generate online discussions. But determining the ad winners and losers from an online buzz perspective isn’t always as clear cut as adding up field goals and touchdowns.

Social media research outfit Networked Insights argues that advertisers should be able to determine ROI when it comes to their presence in Web conversations.

“Popularity is one thing…but that’s a one trick pony,” said Networked Insights CEO Dan Neely, who thinks advertisers should be asking, “Can I actually convert that into some form of revenue for my company?” As advertisers reduce ad budgets and aim for efficiency, such questions will become more important, he believes.

The firm looked at online interactions mentioning Super Bowl advertiser brands through Wednesday to determine what it calls Social ROI. The metric gauges the increase in social interactions online for every $1 million the advertisers spent on Super Bowl ads. In the end, the research firm concluded that Teleflora, Cash4Gold, CareerBuilder.com, and H&R Block topped the list of big game advertisers according to Social ROI department. Teleflora’s rose 488 percent, Cash4Gold’s was up 246 percent, CareerBuilder.com’s increased 99 percent, and the social media return on Universal’s investment for its upcoming “Land of the Lost” film was up 48 percent.

The company measured 3.5 million conversations each day on 17,000 social sites; in addition to large social sites like Facebook or MySpace, they measure niche sites where online conversations occur, such as Fan Forum, RapMusic.com, and The Knot.

The top social ROI gainers, however, barely made a blip on the screen as far as TNS Cymfony’s social discussion volume index is concerned. Teleflora, Cash4Gold, and CareerBuilder.com didn’t even make it in its top 10 rankings, measuring the volume of social media discussions mentioning Super Bowl ad brands. During the first 36 hours following the Super Bowl, Cymfony found that Anheuser-Busch, Dreamworks’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and Paramount’s “Star Trek” and “GI Joe: Rise of Cobra” garnered the highest volume of discussion around their brands online.

The difference in the two firms’ findings, said Neely, in part stems from what is measured. Networked Insights measures Web content and social media interaction beyond postings — looking at links, invites, and other instances of online sharing. “Those are the things that are high value and make social media social,” suggested Neely. “We measure the vocal minority and the silent majority,” he said, arguing that other systems only look at initial postings, what he’d call the “vocal minority.”

Cymfony’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Jim Nail argued that measuring volume of postings matters. If no one is actually creating posts about an advertiser, then there won’t be anyone sharing that information, either, he said. “Any [increase in social interactions] they get, even if it’s small is going to result in a huge percentage jump,” he said.

Arguments over methodology will persist as long as research firms are around. However, in the case of measuring buzz around the Super Bowl ads, social media consultant and ClickZ Experts columnist Dave Evans contended such reports offer limited value to advertisers.

“When you apply these social measures to an awareness platform, which is the Super Bowl spot, you’re going to get measures that vary widely depending on what [methodology] you’re using,” said Evans. He argues that metrics like those from Networked Insights or Cymfony can be “extremely valuable” when applied to gauge conversations that take place regarding brand attributes, or when consumers are considering product purchases.

However, because many of the post-game conversations tend to be about the ad creative and entertainment value of the advertising, as opposed to the brands themselves, applying metrics for measuring conversations about brands is inappropriate. “Yes the Super Bowl spots generate huge conversations. But they’re about the spots; they’re not about the brand,” said Evans.

One outlier may be in the case of films such as “Transformers” and “Land,” both of which showed up on Cymfony’s “most talked about advertisers” list, and Networked Insights’ list of social ROI gainers. In such cases, conversations were predominately about the brands — or the movies –themselves.

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