It used to be that running a TV commercial during the Super Bowl was an end-game in itself. Typically kept under wraps until airing during the National Football League's annual extravaganza, a Super Bowl commercial was designed to kick off during the game and drill the advertiser's brand deep into the minds of viewers.
But Super Bowl ads are no longer the turf of just television, and this year's game showed more than prior Super Bowls the importance of extending TV exposure—before, during and after the big game—through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other online social networks.
"More Super Bowl advertisers this year have tried to extend coverage by releasing their TV spots ahead of time online," says Mark DiMassimo, founder and CEO of DIGO Brands, a digital advertising agency. "Advertisers realize that the more important part of their Super Bowl strategy is the 'buzz' and viral part through social media."
Mission accomplished. This year's Super Bowl ads received 24% more online social media buzz in the 24-hour period following the game compared with the same period a year ago, reports Zeta Interactive, a provider of online social marketing services.
Zeta's Super Bowl Ad Buzz Report, or Zeta Buzz, is based on data mined by Zeta from more than 200 million blogs, tweets, message boards, social media posts and other online social content; the company bases its findings on how many consumers mention retailers, brands and their commercials.
"It's all about consumer engagement," says a spokesman for Cars.com, which previewed its Super Bowl TV ad—a humorous portrayal of a car buyer in a showroom—on its Facebook page and on YouTube.com, where it was viewed more than 100,000 times between Jan. 25 and game day on Feb. 5. "It's not enough to be just an advertiser anymore; it's about consumers interacting with your ad."
Millions of views
Indeed, a search on Google the Friday before the game for "Super Bowl 2012 ad" brought up links to several ads slated to run during the game from companies including Toyota, Volkswagen and the GoDaddy Internet domain name and hosting service. All offer entertaining content designed to go viral.
For example, the VW ad shows an overweight dog who puts himself on a diet so he can run with a red VW Beetle, and provides ways to share the spot through social media. A teaser for the ad has attracted more than 11 million views on YouTube and the ad itself, called "The Dog Strikes Back," more than 2 million views. Not only does VW show the ad, it also offers an entertaining video of how it made the ad, including the director giving the news to canine star Duke that he was being passed over for this spot.
The Cars.com "Confident You" Super Bowl ad—in which a duplicate image of the car buyer's head sings words of encouragement to get him to buy a car—also includes links in the final frame to let viewers share it via Facebook and Twitter. Like other ads, the Cars.com commercial was still available for sharing on the web long after New York's victory over New England was history.
Zeta says that this year's ads received 14% more online social media buzz in the first 12 hours following the game than last year's ads received during the 24 hour-period following the game. And during the game social buzz was 16% higher this year than last year, Zeta says.
Not all advertisers, however, effectively tied their TV ads to social media for maximum buzz, even though several inundated viewers with Twitter hash tags, mobile contests and other measures, according to a review of the ads by Resource Interactive. The digital marketing agency said that one retailer that did an unusually good job of integrating TV and web-based social media was Best Buy Co. Inc., which directed TV viewers to BestBuy.com to access a $50 discount on the purchase of a mobile phone.