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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Super Bowl Ad Integration: Some Mixed Thoughts

Reprise Media has released a detailed study of how well Super Bowl advertisers managed to synch up their TV ads with their online presence. Reprise are gaining a reputation as "Super Bowl integration experts." Of forty-some Super Bowl advertisers, only eight rate "Touchdown" in Reprise's study. Thirteen are seen as decent in their integration, rating "First and Goal."

I was interested to see a couple of our clients in the "done good" list, and none in the "poor" list. This doesn't surprise me - my sample would be companies who already get paid search marketing, which makes them relatively savvy by definition.

GoDaddy.com always seems to get the most attention here, perhaps due to the racy nature of their ads in the midst of an extravaganza (drunken, raucous, for many TV viewers) that has become Puritanical to the extreme (viz. the furor over the nipple slip that wasn't really), and the pre-hype that includes making sure early versions of the ad are "banned." Bryan Eisenberg (until now) has been including some criticism of GoDaddy's 2006 effort in his presentations, pointing out that visitors to the site around the Super-Bowl-spike time wouldn't have found any clear references to the Super Bowl ad, the GoDaddy Girl, etc. For 2007, this criticism has been addressed. Now there is lots of mention of the ad and the girl. [Addendum: For an updated comment by Bryan, see Godaddy Discovers Online Conversion.]

This leads me to doubt, however, that this strategy is really all that useful for other companies to pursue. What it leads to is making your home page all about the Super Bowl. For a company that sells a commodity product for $10 (or, as they now claim, $1.99), it really doesn't matter; the ability to get your brand out there above the other sober registrars to become top of mind is what matters. By contrast, does Mercedes or Prudential really need or want this type of integration? Maybe, but not if it dominates the home page. It should be for particular products or offers.

Should I be impressed with SalesGenie.com because they have "watch our Super Bowl ad" on their site? I'm not sure. Buying their own brand name in AdWords? That's advisable, but not earth-shattering. And yes they do rank first in the organic search results.

Companies will no doubt continue to experiment with how to both measure and increase the impact of their Super Bowl ads. Specific product websites are better candidates (let's say - FordF150.com) for integration, IMHO. (Of course you have to own the domain name first. Whoops, business just got better again for GoDaddy.)

Another thought: for some of these large companies, there's a hidden payoff for spending on these ads, even though they get a lousy rating on the integration/impact scorecard. The very act of running a poorly-integrated campaign gets you on this list, and onto the radar screen of consultants like Reprise, Future Now, and Page Zero :), and after some efforts to work on online ad campaigns and landing pages, the impact and measurability of the Super Bowl spend as it translates into online behavior kicks up a couple of notches. That's an opportunity not available to smaller, "less wasteful" companies.

GoDaddy makes their approach even smarter through intelligent YouTube integration. When you see the clip of their ad on YouTube, you get a 10%-off offer at the end, taking you to a dedicated landing page. That's using the noggin... if you can afford to give away a $10 product for $1.79, that is. :)

On the broader evaluation of ad effectiveness: according to some critics, many of this year's Super Bowl ads were "circus without purpose," in several cases actually doing harm to brands. Blame whoever you like, but agencies confusing exhibitionism and art-school angst with merchandising would be at the top of my list. Or to put it another way: "when in doubt, accentuate the positive." Suicidal robots? Edgy. Urgh.

I'm aware that at least one of the advertisers on the list is one that patiently grew direct online relationships with customers; they offer deep online content that people interact with day in, day out. Injecting one-off experiments in hype, and new, questionable brand imagery, is more risk than I'd be willing to take if I were that company. All forms of attention are not good. (But maybe they've gotten caught up in the GoDaddy mystique.)

Anyway, something tells me that the point of all this shouldn't be to make your home page all about your Super Bowl ad. That's fine for GoDaddy. But what companies should be doing is working backwards, figuring out what kind of offer they can build online, on a dedicated new site, that will integrate well with the massive Super Bowl exposure and concomitant free PR buzz. If I were an automaker, I'd probably make a big bet on a single product, a concept car ready for rollout in 18-24 months. I'd then do the utmost to build a discussion community and permission-based database around that single, incredibly worthy product. A tougher sell and a higher degree of difficulty than a $1.99 commodity tech product, to be sure, but the low-hanging fruit? -- that's already claimed by Bob Parsons.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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