What value can a business hope to extract from a $4 million investment in a single 30-second Super Bowl ad? OK, the ad will be seen be around 100 million people, but as a way of buying eyeballs, it’s pretty much the most expensive way you can do it.
In 2008 it looked like demand was on the wane, as Pepsi publicly walking away to fund its ambitious ‘Refresh Project’. But no, the Super Bowl ad is back with a vengeance.
The Super Bowl opportunity has been redefined by social media. Brand conversations are now visible, reminding marketers that conversations build brands.
Social enables brands to stir the pot, if they dare
Moments of cultural synchronicity are disproportionately valuable for marketers in a fragmented world, because they change behaviour of large groups, en masse. Social media has enabled us to watch the conversation build, and to stir the pot if we dare.
So little wonder marketers are jumping at the opportunity to come face to face with their advocates and detractors, and to spark flares of engagement by joining the debate.
The Super Bowl used to be simply the battle of the advertising budgets – with the main weapons being A-List directors and outlandish time lengths. Now it’s about the battle of the social newsrooms.
The biggest American brands created social newsrooms packed with data miners, brand ambassadors, and nervous corporate PRs frantically scanning compliance documents. All wanted to be able to capture, create, turn around and distribute this year's equivalent of Oreo's award winning 'You Can Still Dunk in the Dark' campaign of 2013; if only those blasted lights would go out.
Senior marketers manned the TweetDecks, just as top retailers join the shop floor to stock the shelves at Christmas. In 24 hours of prime conversation, there can only be a few winners, so it’s all hands to the pump.
New opportunities for the challenger brand
Over the next decade, global brands will use their evolving newsrooms to vie for esteem, particularly around unique cultural moments like the Super Bowl or indeed the impending World Cup. But the intensity of this battle means that people become increasingly aware of the fact that they are being marketed to in real time – and for the challenger brand, this creates a fascinating opportunity.
An unlikely winner of the social Super Bowl was Newcastle Brown Ale. Newcastle is like one of those people you know who move to another country and then totally change their personality.
In America it is not, in fact, the favoured brand of weather-proof, football-mad Geordies, but the brand of witty, Anglophile sophisticates. They managed to join the conversation by building a campaign that poked fun at their wealthier rivals, and also the aggressive management of trademarks that meant they couldn’t even use the word ‘Super Bowl’ at all.
As people become more aware of marketing, subverting marketing itself is a great opportunity for the challenger brand. It’s the same strategy that drove Bodyform to take aim at its own heritage to such great effect, and it’s ready made for the age of social media.
Big esteem brands will continue to lean on the more predictable effects of a big ad and a well-staffed newsroom. But as the media redefines itself around people, rather than channels, there is clearly more than one way to get into the conversation.
Matthew Hook is managing director of Aegis Media's Carat.Follow @MatthewAdamHook