Super Bowl good for advertisers, great for social media, Twitter, Shazam

What a #SuperBowl Sunday night! The game between the #Giants and the #Patriots came down to the wire (not the one that Richard Simmons-esque character was bouncing on during the #Madonna halftime performance). I couldn’t think of a #betterway to end the football season than watching Eli and the G-men go with #whatworks as they vanquished Brady and New England (#SoLongVampires). To #makeitplatinum, the coin toss earned me some #freepapajohns before the hours upon hours of commercial messages turned my brain to #mushymush.

(Also, Jack in the Box went with #marrybacon. Don’t know how you fit that one into conversation, but it was an interesting strategy nevertheless.)

Worth the price of admission

We know the Super Bowl is all about marketing your brand. A 30-second spot this year went for $3.5 million. General Motors spent $28 million on 4 minutes worth of advertising for their Chevy line alone (plus whatever it cost to sponsor the game’s MVP award and the hashtag #superbowl on Twitter).

I’m of the inclination that the return is worth the investment. No other event attracts such a large audience among all of the major purchasing demographics. The cost per thousand viewers (CPM) for the 2011 Super Bowl was $27. A successful primetime drama or sitcom will charge near, or many times, north of that figure. Other special events, like award shows, often demand an even greater CPM.

Plus – and this is a major plus – what other event do audiences watch for the advertisements? News and entertainment programs leading up to and following Super Bowl Sunday will spend hours of additional airtime reairing the ads for comment at no charge. Not to mention the Super Bowl ad galleries that are featured prominently Monday on YouTube, Hulu – even the Google homepage. That’s why it’s not surprising – to me, at least – to see Forbes claiming that networks with broadcasting rights could easily fill the 70 available commercial slots at double the current rate. Yes, that’s $7 million for 30 seconds of celebrity cameo or cute animal stunts.

But that’s not the point of today’s post. That stuff happens every year. What was new – at least on a large scale – was the incorporation of social networking into the Super Bowl spots – particularly Twitter and Shazam.

#ThePowerOfParticipation

Last year, Audi caught the advertising world’s eye when it included a Twitter hashtag (#ProgressIs) at the end of one of the year’s better spots. One year later, about 15% of commercials included a hashtag or reference to a Twitter page. For good reason, too. As Twitter has transformed into the world’s sports bar, a Tweetdeck app has become as essential to the game-watching experience as the widemouth can (#slightlyexaggerated). Twitter reports that in the concluding moments of the game it experienced the highest-ever volume of English-language Tweets per second (12,233).

(In case you’re curious, the bookmark-worthy folks at the New York Times Media Decoder blog note that the largest burst of Tweets on Earth occurred on Dec. 9, 2011, when 25,008 Tweets-per-second shot out from Japan as the 1986 anime film Castle in the Sky aired on national television. Now you know.)

Monday, Twitter announced 13.7 million Super Bowl-related Tweets were sent between 6 – 11 p.m. ET Sunday. That figure is actually lower than some independent monitors measured. Media Decoder reports that Trendrr put the number in excess of 15 million. One year ago, the same firm measured 3 million Super Bowl Tweets #bigtimeincrease.

Why does this matter? All that Tweeting (and Facebooking and Tumblring) means that audiences aren’t passive. Through social media, they are actively attending to, interacting with, and responding to messages in a global community. For advertisers, engagement equals retention,retention equals action, and action ultimately equals success. Naturally, they wanted in.

Twitter’s research added that the most mentioned ad hashtag of the night went to last year’s pioneer. Audi’s #SoLongVampires took the win over Bud Light’s #makeitplatinum. Specific figures were unavailable, but Esquire discovered that some of those Tweets humorously strayed from the advertisers’ intentions.

Indeed, not all the data was positive. Brand Bowl – a collaboration between the Boston Herald, ad agency Mullen, and social media monitor Radian6 – evaluated almost half a million ad-related Tweets during the Super Bowl in order to determine not only the most talked-about brand, but also the one that was most positively perceived by the circling sharks of the Twitterverse.

Their data revealed two things. 1) The large majority of advertisements failed to make a dent in the conversation. 2) Folks on Twitter hate on everything. Only eleven commercials received more than 10,000 Tweets, and only ten had scores higher than “2 of 10” on the overall scoring metric. Doritos was their big winner, achieving a score of 9. Their ad was the most Tweeted about (48,687) and had a 29% sentiment value (positive + neutral Tweets – negative Tweets / total Tweets). M&Ms had the most beloved ad according to Brand Bowl. It’s 30-second spot earned a 41% sentiment value. America loves us some chocolate nudity (If Google sent you my way based on that phrase, thanks for stopping by. Sorry to disappoint.).

As for the brands that specifically included Twitter in their advertisements? Only two – Budweiser and H&M placed in the top ten of the data set, though I am unsure (and a little skeptical) that the hashtags promoted in the ads were included in the content analysis.

One more slightly tangential note about Super Bowl Twitter. If you participated in the discussion, you might have noticed the spike in spam. A growing nuisance on the social networking site, it is not uncommon to send a Tweet, only to receive a reply from a robot account telling you to click on some mystery bit.ly link. When those @mentions are sent to your phone, as they are to mine, the aggravation intensifies. When, on Sunday, each Super Bowl-related Tweet was met with 1-3 spam replies from robo accounts with the NFL shield as an avatar to inform you of a prize you’ve just won, it’s enough to make you leave the laptop behind and stick your hand back into the bowl of Tostitos instead. If Twitter is going to be the world’s water cooler, they’ve got to get rid of all the sleazy solicitors, and quickly.

Tag, you’re it

If Twitter was the place to be, Shazam was the thing to do. Among Super Bowl ads, 11% encouraged some sort of interaction with a QR code or mobile app – primarily the audio-tagging app Shazam, which the company claims helped viewers interact with half of the commercials (not to mention the game and halftime show). Best Buy integrated Shazam into one of the more appreciated ads of the night. Thanks to the now commonplace online pre-advertising, techies stood ready for the “Shazam now” icon to appear in the Best Buy spot, tagging it for a chance to win gift cards. Tagging Pepsi’s ad earned users a free music video. Toyota gave away a pair of Camrys. Cars.com took the philanthropic road, donating $1 to charity for each Shazam tag. They set the cap at $100,000. No word on if that number was achieved, but Shazam self-reports “millions” of tags over the course of the game.

This smartphone-less blogger will admit to having never heard of Shazam before Sunday night, and approached describing its functions with much trepidation. To be sure, many more know of the service now, without a single $3.5 million ad space purchased. The company’s next big event integration is scheduled for the Grammy awards, when one would imagine the possibilities for an audio-tagging app would be plentiful.

We seem to be in the middle of the next great tech boom. But unlike the Pets.com’s of the early 2000s, this decade’s tech pioneers are providing the platform, not paying to stand on it. That’s a strategy that seems to have a little more staying power.

Oh, and the game was pretty good, too.

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