February 7, 2011, 4:25 PM

Flag on the play

Super Bowl TV ads generated online buzz, but some companies fumbled in their digital plays, one analyst says. Focused on brand building, few retailers successfully promoted their online presences, missing out on deeper engagement with consumers.

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Advertisers paid about $3 million for every 30 seconds of air time during the Super Bowl last night and used those pricey seconds to showcase their best creative efforts. Teen sensation Justin Bieber and heavy-metal icon Ozzy Osbourne hawked for Best Buy, Chrysler used Eminem to uncover Detroit’s soul and GoDaddy followed the hot chick formula that’s proven useful for the brand in the past. But one digital marketing expert says that marketers generally stumbled in connecting their TV commercials to their web assets in a way that would strengthen ties with consumers.

“We were surprised that there weren’t more and better uses of digital,” says Dennis Bajec, chief creative officer of Resource Interactive, a digital marketing agency. Bajec says marketers leveraged their digital presences in the lead up to the game, but that their in-game efforts fell flat at linking those properties. For example, Mercedes-Benz ran a large Twitter campaign, which was called Tweet Race to Dallas, in an effort to engage consumers in the weeks leading up to the big game. Bajec thought the car company should have mentioned the effort in its Super Bowl ad spot, but the spot, which featured Sean Combs, failed to do so. The only call-out to online was the car company’s web site address.

Other marketers’ efforts fell short, too. Even though Chrysler had the largest number of Twitter posts associated with its ad—38,225 during the game alone, Resource Interactive says—Bajec contends that consumers who visited Chrysler.com after viewing its emotional two-minute ode to Detroit were left hanging. They could watch the ad again on the home page, but the car maker didn’t extend the story it told in the ad. Instead, the web page showed standard car info about the Chrysler 200 vehicle. “I thought that was a great TV spot. It had a really good energy and authentic feel. You were compelled to go online and get more of the story but then you got to a landing page that didn’t pay off in a meaningful way,” Bajec says.

At BestBuy.com’s home page, consumers could watch the Justin and Ozzy ad and learn more about the electronics buy-back program cited in the ad, but Bajec says links to a feature where consumers could tack on their own endings to the commercial were broken. “Best Buy did a good job at continuing the content online, but the fun and engaging piece that was meant to carry out that part of the ad did not work,” he says. Best Buy, No. 10 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, did garner more than 25,000 tweets during the game, however. Best Buy provided no immediate comment.

Daily deal site Groupon.com ran a series of three ads before, during and after the game, each touting how a Groupon discount could make fun activities cheaper to do.

A Groupon spot starring actor Cuba Gooding Jr. talked about how important it is to save the whales, but then took a turn to show how consumers could go whale watching at a big discount using Groupon. Another spot featured actor Timothy Hutton talking about challenges faced by Tibet, but then showed how consumers could enjoy Himalayan cuisine at half off with Groupon. Groupon directed viewers to visit Groupon.com to learn more.

The Tibet ad in particular is causing some bad press today as consumers and marketing critics say it made light of a serious issue, but Groupon still earned 731 tweets per second of paid air time, according to Resource Interactive. Groupon representatives say that the ads weren’t meant to offend and that consumers may be missing a philanthropic angle of the campaign if they don’t come to Groupon.com. The company, on its home page, has a link to SaveTheMoney.Groupon.com where consumers can watch the Super Bowl spots and then make a donation to Greenpeace (for the whales) and The Tibet Fund that Groupon will match. 

Bajec does say some advertisers did a better job at leveraging the web in their TV ads and their web properties when consumers visited them between wings and beer.

Online brokerage E-trade.com urged consumers to open an E-trade account online and used its YouTube channel presence to reinforce this message. When consumers visited Teleflora.com they saw floral arrangements from its Faith Hill collection featured on its home page. Hill starred in its TV spot.

Web site registrar GoDaddy.com leveraged its TV spot to push consumers online to watch its R-rated video—and offered viewers a 50% off discount on domain registration. Doritos had the most tweets associated with it during the game—55,438—largely propelled by an online poll that encouraged people to tweet for which ad the company would air during the game. Volkswagen used social media to generate 13 million online views of its kid-as-Darth-Vader spot before the game even began, and made sure to link the online version of the ad to VW’s social media presences. Alterian SM2, which monitors social media buzz, reports that the Volkswagen ad was the most-liked among ads talked about on social media.

Bajec cites Audi as doing a good job at connecting its traditional TV ad to the web—it also was the only TV spot that included a Twitter hashtag, he says. Following the hashtag put consumers in touch with multiple digital assets, including a Facebook game and iPad app. “They had a robust program of digital touchpoints that played into their theme of old luxury being dead and Audi as representing new luxury,” he says. “The hashtag trigged you to go online and then you could find these elements really fast.” Bajec says the social nature of these tools will extend the conversation around the Audi brand well past Super Bowl Sunday.

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