The Social Bowl That Wasn't
originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
Super Bowl XLVI may be over, but as long as there are still drunk fans screaming at the bar Tonic in Manhattan’s Murray Hill, the analysis will go on. It’s not just the Patriots that should be hitting their heads over all the dropped balls. I’m wondering why so many marketers dropped the ball with social media this year.
It was a crazy night of football, and at least as crazy during the breaks, as ads revealed surprising similarities. Was your favorite bald wisecracker the E*TRADE baby or Bruce Willis in the “G.I. Joe”trailer? Were you salivating more over the naked male body of David Beckham or the M&M?
The biggest surprise was that in a year where Twitter averaged more than 10,000 tweets per second, and comments during the game were either up at least fivefold according to Trendrr and Bluefin Labs, social media was so marginalized during the advertising.
Yes, some brands had a great game plan. Volkswagen and Honda both created teasers for ads connected to classic movies and attracted millions of viewers, along with ample anticipation for their actual spots. Coca-Cola was the most ambitious, orchestrating a Polar Bowl with animated commentary lasting the entirety of the game; that’s more than three hours longer than a typical 30-second spot, and it had to keep adding servers during the game to keep up with demand.
During the game itself, I was most impressed by Chevrolet. Its montage of car stunts got me excited when I recognized the band OK Go driving a modified car around some crazy track. The end of the spot included a link to letsdothis.com which redirected to the brand’s YouTube channel. From there, it was easy to navigate to a music video with OK Go turning a racetrack into a musical instrument. The call to action was succinct and memorable, the navigation at the destination was intuitive, and the music video payoff was everything that I wanted. So why weren’t more brands doing anything like this?
Instead, the few brands that did plug their social channels tended to stumble. The biggest letdowns were with how marketers handled Facebook during their Super Bowl spots. Marketers shouldn’t necessarily be driving people to their Facebook pages, but when marketers include a Facebook call-out, it should make sense. Two marketers in particular fumbled this badly.
MetLife’s spot of classic cartoon characters included a tagline at the end with a Facebook logo and then the callout to “meet the cast.” I tried searching Facebook for “Met Life” and found nothing related to the brand, but there were pages along the theme of people having met someone who changed their life; one even has more than 800,000 fans. Only later did I realize that the company’s name was one word, and was then able to find the spot. Specifying the URL of facebook.com/metlife would have been far easier for fans.
Another advertiser to plug Facebook was Bud Light, in its spot about the beer-fetching rescue dog Weego. On Facebook, Bud Light announced, “For every 'like' Weego receives, Bud Light will donate $1 (up to $250,000) to Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).” This sounds heartwarming, until you realize Bud Light is not just trying to juice its fan count with the donation, but the donation amounts to less than one-tenth of the cost of media alone for the Super Bowl spot. Give Bud Light credit for staying true to its brand, as it can both literally and figuratively leave a bad taste in your mouth.
It wasn’t just brands’ use of Facebook that surprised me. Some of the second- and third-screen apps themselves overpromised and underdelivered. The worst offender here was Shazam, which first said one-third and then later one-half of all Super Bowl ads would be “shazamable.” That meant that you could run the app during an ad and receive more information, content, and possibly offers from the advertisers. What I mistakenly inferred was that the ads themselves would have a call-out with the Shazam logo running for five to 10 seconds, as other TV advertisers have done previously. I didn’t see the logo all night; the closest I got was a report that Toyota partnered with Shazam, but I didn’t see the call-out on the online version of the spot the next day. So how could viewers know which spots worked with Shazam? Worse still was that when running Shazam during an ad, it led to a generic landing page for the Super Bowl that usually had nothing to do with the ad playing.
Then there’s the whole idea of checking in to TV shows. As of Tuesday morning, Super Bowl XLVI recorded more than 170,000 check-ins on GetGlue. It’s not clear how many unique users checked in or how many did so during the broadcast, as two of my friends each checked in 11 times; perhaps they were flipping back and forth between the Super Bowl and Puppy Bowl. Meanwhile, 300,000 people checked in to the Super Swarm Sunday event on Foursquare. I was pleasantly surprised to see a tip there from Madonna plugging her new album. Other apps linking up with the game included IntoNow, Miso, Viggle, and ConnecTV. I juggled most of them, and the greatest similarity was that there wasn’t much going on with any of them. I couldn’t figure out what to do or why to stick around. There’s a lot of promise for multiscreen experiences, but the Super Bowl wasn’t a good showcase for them.
With the surge in tweets and comments during the game, people were clearly active with social media. I often found interest in what my friends were sharing on Twitter and Facebook, as that’s where conversations were happening. I expected more, though, with digital tie-ins that enhanced what was happening on screen. With little materializing, it was easier to sit back, grab another Guinness, and revel in watching one of the greatest professional sports rematches of all time. As for better uses of social media, there’s always next year.