Super Social Bowl 2013

Following last year’s Super Bowl, I wrote about some of social media’s impact on the big game as well as the greatly hyped commercials.  I didn’t intend to write a similar post this year, but there were some interesting developments that provided inspiration.

As happened last year, many of the ads were leaked in advance of the game to build awareness and hype.  Did that strategy work?  Perhaps, but it’s often a double-edged sword.  Think of it in terms of getting presents for a holiday or your birthday.  You’re most excited when you first realize what the gift is.  If you happen to find out in advance, that is when the biggest impact is made.  As the chart below suggests, ads leaked in advance didn’t generate the biggest ratings.  Not that this is different than “viewer favorite” polls.

Super Bowl XLVII commercials, Ratings, Super Bowl Commercials 2013

25 Super Bowl XLVII commercials with the biggest TV audiences, according to Kantar Media

Doritos aired spots that were voted on in advance via Facebook.  Another one of the interesting commercials this year was from Coke – not because it was a creative masterpiece, but because it was a two-part commercial with the second spot dependent on audience voting and engagement throughout the evening.  If you’d like a glimpse into a “social media war room” I’d encourage you to read this article from Ad Age.

Beyonce’s halftime show was a spectacle with viewers split on how good (or poor) it was.  These armchair entertainment critics took to Facebook and Twitter to share their opinions, pro or con.  And just as viewers put their cell phones and tablets away to concentrate on the second half of the game, the now infamous power outage occurred.

As CBS scrambled to make sense of the blackout, many viewers returned to social media for their entertainment.  This is when social media surpassed television for the Super Bowl advertising I’ll remember the most.

Savvy brands seized the moment to create memorable social media posts about the blackout, including Oreo, Audi and Tide.  The one for Oreo received 15,830 re-tweets and 5,918 favorites.  That’s phenomenal free exposure that lasted well-beyond the 30-second spots selling for $3.8 Million.

If there were any ads you’d like to re-watch, or some that you missed entirely, you can view them in one spot here thanks to Ad Age.  Which ads were your favorite this year?

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Recent Examples of PR – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In any given week, if you look for it, you’ll find examples of public relations; good, bad and ugly.  Here’s what I found recently:

The Good:  Restaurants and fast food chains have so many examples of bad PR that you could write a novel.  So when something goes against that trend, it’s worth talking about.  Red Robin recently received great positive PR and all it cost them was $11.50.  How did that happen?  A couple expecting their second child visited a location in North Carolina.  When the bill came due, the couple was pleasantly surprised to see her meal was at no charge with “MOM 2 BEE GOOD LUC” written on the bill.

The Bad:  Allstate recently released an ad that focused on how they’ve helped numerous victims of Hurricane Sandy and how their agents put the customer first.  The problem was that one of the damaged homes featured prominently in the spot is not being covered fully by the company and the insurance claim is still in dispute.  The homeowners have vocalized their displeasure with both the company and the video.  I’ve tried to include a link to the video, but it’s been removed.  While not a PR disaster of epic proportions, this is certainly bad PR for the company.

The Ugly:  Did you happen to watch the NCAA Football Championship game on January 7th?  During the game, play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger made some comments about the girlfriend of the starting quarterback for Alabama.  What he said wasn’t necessarily inappropriate or bad, but many viewers during and after the game took to social media criticizing the comments as “creepy” and “awkward.”  In my opinion, an apology wasn’t necessary, but ESPN issued one to escape a potential firestorm.

What have you noticed recently in public relations and would you nominate it as good, bad or ugly?

Were Your Holidays A Little Different?

Were your holidays a little different this past year?  No, I’m not referring to the horrific and tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown or closer to home, the West Webster Fire Department ambush.  Although I did think of the victims’ families and my heart still aches for what they’ve had to endure.

I noticed something different this past year and I’m wondering if it was just my family or if you experienced it too.  This was the first year we didn’t receive a “year in review” newsletter with one of our holiday cards.

I believe it’s due to the proliferation of Facebook.  Most people are on Facebook (over 1 billion people worldwide) and are likely connected to the majority of the people on their holiday card list.  As long as you share content on a somewhat regular basis, most people have a pretty good idea of your significant events and milestones from the past year.

Family Newsletter 2012

The other thing I noticed was a lack of Lexus commercials this year.  It’s been a staple of television advertising for the past several holiday seasons.  Perhaps I simply wasn’t watching the right networks at the right time.  But I did see plenty of automobile ads, just not for Lexus.  Perhaps they read my blog post from last year and had second thoughts about investing in that campaign once again?  Then again, probably not.  😉

How were your holidays?  Did you notice anything different?

What’s For Dessert This Thanksgiving?

As the American Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches, there’s word that an increasing number of retailers will open that day for holiday shoppers this year.  Thanksgiving used to be immune from the craziness of holiday shopping.  Not any more and consumers are to blame.

Not too long ago, retailers were closed on Thanksgiving Day.  Many would open early the following morning (known as Black Friday) with special deals.  Over the years, that early opening would start even earlier as retailers wanted to get a jump on their competition.  You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see the writing on the wall that one day, a few retailers would cross the midnight threshold.

The trend started last year, as some retailers tested the waters of opening on Thanksgiving Day instead.  For the most part, and to my personal displeasure, that test was a success.  As a result, the door has opened a little further and more retailers are planning to open on Thanksgiving Day; some with offers that are exclusive to Thursday.  Other retailers won’t open their brick and mortar locations, but will have special online details in place.

Guess what?  More consumers will embrace the sales this year and next year the door will open yet a little more.  Slowly but surely, the sales-happy consumers in this country will send a message to retailers that it’s okay to open on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving might just be my favorite holiday of the year.  I love what it stands for and I love the family traditions that revolve around it.  I have no plans to reward retailers who choose to open on the holiday, even if they try to entice me with a 70-inch LED television for next to nothing.

How about you?  Will you be enjoying apple or pumpkin pie for dessert, or running to your local mall (or computer) to shop instead?

Bacon!

Perhaps I’m overly critical, having spent nearly 20 years analyzing the effectiveness of nearly 200,000 advertisements.  As a result, I find most ads to be quite ineffective, actually.  When something catches my critical eye as being the exception to (my) rule, I can’t wait to share it.

Oscar Mayer recently launched an ad campaign that I thought is pretty clever.  And if I had to guess, I expect it will be successful too.  It’s called “Bacon Barter” and it’s about a man travelling across the U.S. (12 cities) with 3,000 pounds of bacon who will trade that bacon for everything he needs, including food, gas, lodging and entertainment.  Here’s why I think it will work . . .

1)  Most Americans love bacon!  Bacon is delicious…enough said.  🙂

2)  The campaign will capitalize on regional/local promotions as the barterer travels across the country.  Even though the campaign is national, it will incorporate valuable local/regional publicity as it progresses.

3)  It incorporates humor.  Traditionally, humor works (just watch the Super Bowl, although Super Bowl spots have gone down-hill in recent years in my opinion).

4)  It incorporates social media.  As of September 12th, @baconbarter already has over 1,800 followers on Twitter.  Want to barter?  You can tweet your barter offer using the hashtag #baconbarter!  The Oscar Mayer page on Facebook already has 734,000+ likes (granted, not all due to this campaign).  They’re using Instagram too.

5)  The campaign feeds on (pardon the pun) Americans’ sense of travel and adventure.

6)  Americans love a good deal, so you can follow all of the barter deals he makes on their website and/or social media accounts.

But, Oscar Mayer better closely monitor the social media aspect of this campaign. Quite a few companies have had their seemingly clever campaign backfire in the social media world.  One recent example is McDonald’s, who asked fans to tweet about their favorite fond memories of Happy Meals using the hashtag #McDStories. Instead, Twitter was flooded with McDonald’s horror stories using that same hashtag.  If they’re not careful, I can see this account getting barter offers for all sorts of illegal products/services and that hashtag could quickly slide down-hill.

All of this writing is making me hungry!  Bacon, anyone?

Authenticity in Advertising

In my last post, I wrote about authenticity in social media.  With this post, I’m focusing on authenticity in advertising.  While that subject could likely provide enough source material to teach a full semester’s course, I’ll narrow it down to fast food advertising (and just this one post).

It’s not a secret that many hours go into enhancing the look of fast food products.  The lighting has to be just right, items are strategically placed, touch-ups are done.  In fact, quite often what you see isn’t the actual food product but something made to look like it.  Is that really ice cream you’re seeing in a commercial, or scoops of lard covered in motor oil?  Is it milk in that cereal bowl, or watered-down glue?  Yes, you read those examples correctly.  🙂

Since learning about these techniques in college,  I’ve never really trusted fast food advertising.  Watch the video below and your level of trust might be lower too.

There’s a recent trend that’s become an advertising pet peeve of mine.  Have you noticed fast food restaurants often include slow-motion shots of sandwiches being meticulously constructed with farm-fresh ingredients using pristine instruments?  It’s almost like watching a culinary version of the game “Operation!”  Do you really think that’s what occurs after you place your order at the drive-thru?  Or, is it more likely someone is slapping together food warmed under a heat lamp as quickly as possible using their hands (hopefully with gloves)?

For the above reasons, I find authenticity in fast food advertising significantly lacking.  What other industries need to do a better job of being authentic in their advertising?

“Dads and Grads” – Brilliant or Lazy?

It’s that time of year again . . . June brings us both Father’s Day and graduations.    You’ve probably heard some clever advertiser jump on the “dads and grads” marketing bandwagon to grab your attention.

Honestly, this is a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to marketing.  Aside from a rhyme, how smart is it to lump the two groups together?  Effective marketing is supposed to be targeted.  You’ve researched your customers and/or target audience, you’ve analyzed the demographics and sociographics, and you’ve somehow concluded that dads = grads and it’s smart to market to both simultaneously.  Really?!?

I’m a dad, but I doubt I have a ton in common with the class of 2012 when it comes to demographics and sociographics.  You don’t need to be a market research guru to come to that conclusion.

Most college graduations occur in May, but you don’t see marketers lumping them with Mother’s Day.  Why not?   June is an extremely popular month for weddings, but you don’t see marketers lumping brides or grooms with dads.  Why not?

It’s a safe assumption that there’s a demographic/sociographic discrepancy between each of the aforementioned groups.  Therefore, I can assume the reason dads and grads are linked is simply because they rhyme.  How pathetic is that?!

Don’t you think recent graduates want their own moment in the spotlight after years of hard work?  As a dad, I’m a little insulted that the significance of Father’s Day is muted by the inclusion of graduates.  Aren’t we deserving of sole attention from marketers?  And while I’m on my marketing pet peeve soap box, not all dads are bumbling, clueless and lazy.  Come on marketers, you’re better than that!  “Dads and grads” is not creative, original or effective; it’s lazy.

I’d especially like to hear from fellow dads out there.  Am I off-base with this or do you feel similarly?  What’s your biggest complaint with how dads are portrayed in advertising?

A New Advertising World – Part 2

In my last post, I discussed how changes in laws have lead to increased pharmaceutical advertising on television.  This week, it’s about a different type of “pharmaceutical” – liquor and spirits.  Ad Age recently had an article about this very topic, which was the inspiration for this post.

While beer commercials have been a part of television for decades, no liquor ads appeared on television between 1948 and 1996.  While the federal government generally views beer, wine and spirits similarly, for years the broadcast networks did not.  A few local affiliates gradually allowed some liquor advertising late at night, provided the audience contained a minimum of 71% over the age of 21.

As with the pharmaceutical industry, television is viewed as the more prestigious medium.  Many companies feel television advertising allows them to increase awareness of new products, especially to potential new consumers.  It also allows them to present their message differently than other advertising channels.

Given the self-imposed broadcast industry restrictions on liquor advertising, it has a long way to go before it dominates the airwaves like beer advertising does.  To illustrate the difference, Bud Light spent $230 Million on television advertising in 2011 whereas Captain Morgan rum was the largest liquor advertiser on television at $17 Million.

Tying this post back to Part 1, there are quite a few similarities between prescription drug and liquor/spirits advertising.  After all, both are likely making promises of feeling better when taking their product, both have side effects and both come with their fair share of warnings.  Interestingly, you’ll never see either being directly consumed in a commercial.

So how do you feel about seeing commercials for hard alcohol?  Do you feel differently about seeing commercials for beer vs. wine vs. hard alcohol?  Are you okay with the self-imposed restrictions the networks have or should they be strengthened/lessened?

Now that you’ve read both parts, do you have similar views on commercials for prescription drugs and hard alcohol, or do they differ?  I’d love to hear your opinions.

A New Advertising World – Part 1

Depending on your television viewing habits, you may have noticed a gradual change in advertising over the past few years.

Not too long ago, prescription drug manufacturers could not advertise on television.  Instead, they focused on trade/B2B magazines targeted to physicians and other medical industry professionals (as well as direct mail, trade shows, branded merchandise and samples).  I measured the effectiveness of literally thousands of these advertisements, in dozens of publications, over many years.  Print advertising rates are based on many factors, but are primarily driven by audience size (circulation quantity), quality (subscriber profile), page size, page color and frequency.

It was quite apparent that these companies had large budgets when it came to advertising.  Instead of the standard one page advertisement with color, their advertising was often 4+ pages printed on heavy-weight glossy card stock.  And sometimes, they would advertise more than once within the same issue.  Because most people outside of the medical industry don’t have the opportunity to see this kind of advertising, what you also missed was a page or two (or more!) of contraindications.  That’s a fancy word for side effects, how the drugs interact with other drugs and conditions that would warrant avoiding the drug and complications that could arise as a result of taking it.

Fast-forward several years and regulations have been lessened to allow drug manufacturers to advertise on television.  Most drug manufacturers jumped at the chance to advertise on television because it brought prestige to their product.

The biggest change is that they’re no longer targeting the doctors and medical industry professionals but the end-consumers and patients.  “Ask your doctor about [drug name here]” is the new normal.  They’ve altered the marketing dynamic by creating consumer demand to supplement physician knowledge.

What hasn’t changed?  The need to incorporate the contraindications as part of the advertising.  So the same commercial that spends time praising the amazing benefits of the drug being advertised must also spend time telling you all the bad things that could happen too.  While it’s probably a good thing that they have to disclose that information, they’re sharing it with those who aren’t qualified to make complicated prescription decisions.

Is having to include negative information in the commercial ultimately hurting their marketing efforts?  There’s certainly an increased volume of television commercials for prescription products.

Why do you think they’re working?  Do you think people simply tune-out that part of the message, or is there some other reason?  Or, do you think they don’t work and the drug manufacturers simply have a budget large enough to advertise on television despite incorporating a negative message?

Part 2 on this topic has been published.

Super Social Bowl

Did you watch Super Bowl XLVI?  As a fan of the New York Giants, I was certainly glued to the television until the very last play.  The game set records not only for television viewership, but for social media activity as well.

Being in the marketing industry, I’ve always paid close attention to the advertising during the game.  As social media integration and proliferation continues to increase, it was interesting to see how it changed the advertising this year.  The biggest change I noticed was how many of the ads were “leaked” in advance.  This helped generate buzz and social media conversations ahead of, during, and after the game.  But, the big question is, did it work?

According to analysis reported in Advertising Age, here are the top 10 according to the quantity of social media comments generated:

Super Bowl XLVI Top Commercials by Social Media Comments

My personal observation is that most of the pre-event social media buzz on Super Bowl commercials centered around the Honda CRV Commercial featuring Matthew Broderick with references to his Ferris Bueller character.  Interestingly, that ad (which was leaked in advance) didn’t crack the top 10 in the Bluefin Labs analysis.

Since social media tends to have more of a long-term ROI, it may take quite some time to determine which strategy worked (leaked vs. not).  The immediate impact is that social media helped spread out the cost-per-impression, because it helped extend the reach beyond the televised spot.  While I “unplugged” from social media to concentrate on the game, many viewers did not as the 2012 Super Bowl set records for tweets per second and total social media comments generated.

As to my personal favorites, my top 5 were:

  1. Mars/M&Ms – “Just My Shell”
  2. Chrysler – “Halftime in America”
  3. Volkswagen – “The Dog Strikes Back”
  4. Anheuser Bush/Bud Light – “Rescue Dog”
  5. PepsiCo./Doritos – “Sling Baby”

Which were your favorite/most memorable commercials from this year’s Super Bowl?  Did you “unplug” from social media during the game as well, or were you actively engaged in social media?