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?

A Social Media Storm

Many watched the progress of Hurricane Sandy and reports of the devastation it caused.  Nicknamed “The Perfect Storm” and “Frakenstorm,” the images of destruction were shocking.  I hope you and your family survived the event safely and with minimal damage.  I’m very thankful that my family did, including those directly in the path.

This isn’t the first major storm where social media played an important role in reporting the news.  However, I did find it interesting that so many media outlets encouraged viewers/readers to engage them via social media to get current news.  Rather than wait for the next news cycle, which could be hours away, people were encouraged to follow on Twitter, friend on Facebook, pin to Pinterest, download weather apps, etc., etc.  It makes me wonder how many new followers/friends/app users these media outlets gained as a result of this natural disaster.

While social media is a great resource for current news as it unfolds, you do need to be cautious of what’s posted in terms of accuracy.  I had several friends share pictures to social media that were allegedly taken during the storm.  Virtually all turned out to be a hoax – either doctored using Photoshop or taken from a disaster movie.

With smart phones becoming the dominant type of cell phone and tablets increasing in usage, people could stay connected with friends, family and media – even if their home lost power.  In America, we’ve come a long way from candles and transistor radios.  Several friends who lost power could still post messages to Facebook letting friends and family know their situation.

Having grown up in New Jersey, I have several friends and family in that area who were significantly impacted.  My thoughts and prayers are with them and I hope their recovery is quick and smooth.

How did you use social media during Hurricane Sandy?

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?

Marketing Lessons From Johnny Bravo

Arthur Catalanello & Barry WilliamsThis past weekend I had the thrill of meeting a celebrity from my youth, Barry Williams.  You might know him by his character Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch, or even his alter ego Johnny Bravo.  He was in Rochester to participate in a local production and had a solo show, “Growing Up Brady.”

As someone who watched every episode (multiple times) of The Brady Bunch in my youth, it was personally exciting to meet him.  If you grew up in the 1970s, Greg Brady was someone who most guys wanted to be and most girls wanted to be with.

His local event was a lot of fun for fans of The Brady Bunch.  He shared stories about filming the series, spoke of his relationships with the cast and discussed the various spin-offs and specials that followed in subsequent years.  Additionally, he sang, showed rare home movies from behind the scenes, he taught audience members how to dance like a Brady, took questions from the audience and made time for a “meet and greet” after the event.

Barry Williams unintentionally taught the crowd a few marketing lessons that afternoon too:

  1. Play to your strengths.  While some cast members have tried to escape their Brady Bunch past to an extent, he’s seemingly embraced it.  He’s had a long acting career on stage, but he recognizes that he’ll always be primarily identified with Greg Brady.  Why not turn that into a strength and a positive?  He has.
  2. Identify your core values and messaging.  Barry was asked a few times why he thought the Brady Bunch has been as successful as it has.  His response was that the show identified the values and messaging it wanted to focus on, and it stuck to them throughout its run.  That was true of most of the spin-offs and specials.  The least successful of those were when they decided to have the characters tackle much darker and more serious issues.  When they seemingly abandoned their core values and messaging, viewers didn’t approve.
  3. Humbleness = Likeability.  It was apparent from his opening rap song, “The Real Greg Brady” (a parody rap song, sung to Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”) that Barry Williams has a great sense of humor and does not take himself too seriously.  He can laugh at his past – especially the bad dance moves shown in clips from the Brady Bunch Variety Hour.  Humor often wins people over and this was no exception.
  4. Honesty and transparency brings and strengthens loyalty.  Barry Williams was forthcoming with many details about The Brady Bunch and even incorporated a Question and Answer session into the show.  There were no polished, politically correct, canned responses that I could detect.  In marketing, honesty and transparency brings and strengthens loyalty.  I’m sure his fans left Saturday’s show with a stronger connection to him than before.
  5. Everyone wants to be “cool.”  People want to be cool and brands want to be seen as cool.  When asked to comment on the celebrity guest appearances on The Brady Bunch, he spoke of Don Drysdale, Joe Namath and Davy Jones.  You could see his excitement when he said that Joe Namath recognizes him to this day.  Even Johnny Bravo, “Mr. Cool” in Brady Bunch lore, looks up to someone.  🙂  Makes you wonder which brands the “cool brands” look up to.

Sometimes, marketing lessons come when you’re least expecting them.  Now that’s groovy!

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?

How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

If I had $1 for every business owner who thought he/she knew their customers very well, I’d be wealthy and retired at this point.  The sad reality is, most businesses think they know their customer, but their perception is almost always inaccurate (and sometimes by quite a bit).

I once worked with an established retail business in Rochester, NY that sold men’s fine clothing.  They were convinced their clientele were, on average, “male, 50 years or older, from the eastern suburbs, wealthy and watched prestigious networks on television like CNN.”  While that seemed plausible, I still conducted market research analysis with two main goals.  The first was to verify their customers’ demographics and the second was to research the media consumption of the actual demographic.

When the data was tabulated, it showed their customer base to be much younger and less affluent than they thought.  As a result, different television networks were a better fit.  Imagine their shock when I demonstrated how their advertising would be more effective (and cost-effective) on MTV instead of CNN!

Since seeing is not always believing, the client wanted to stick with the media plan involving CNN.  I was able to convince them to incorporate MTV into the plan as a trial, and suggested they simply ask customers if and where they saw their television commercial and keep a manual tabulation next to the cash register.  At the end of one month, MTV had a 3x advantage over CNN.

Seeing that MTV was significantly less expensive than CNN at the time, by concentrating on the proper network for their customer base, they could cut their ad spend, double their advertising frequency and triple (at minimum) their impact.  Now that’s what I call bang for the advertiser’s buck!

If you own a business, how well do you think you know your customer? If you haven’t conducted market research recently, I’d suggest there are many things you could learn.

Did You Get a Lexus for Christmas?

Did you get a Lexus for Christmas?  You know, the beautiful luxury car, complete with the bow on top and the little jingle playing faintly in the background.  Me neither!  Do you know anyone who has received a new luxury car in such a way?  Me neither!

Advertisements serve multiple purposes, including brand awareness and brand envy to name a few.  While their commercials are likely a pipe dream for 99% of the population, they are memorable.  In fact, throughout the month of December, it’s difficult to watch any television channel without coming across one of their ads.  Chances are, you’ve seen one or more of the variations.

But maybe their purpose isn’t to cause you to run out and purchase one for your loved one without their input on model, style, color and without their knowledge.  Then, you somehow arrange for it to magically appear in your driveway with a big red bow on top that’s the size of a golf cart while you creatively surprise the recipient.  Perhaps Lexus is thinking more strategically and more long-term than that.

Quick! Can you recall the last commercial you watched for Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Jaguar, BMW or Infiniti?  I’m sure you’ve seen them, but they’re likely more of your “typical car ad” than something as unique as Lexus’ approach.  When it’s not unique (even if slightly more practical), it often gets lost in the clutter.  So if/when you’re in the enviable position of being able to purchase a new luxury automobile, which brand might you think of first?  Which brand will create as much joy?  Which one would be seen as a priceless gift?

As unrealistic as their ads might seem at first for the majority of viewers, I’m guessing they’re actually quite effective in the long-term for creating brand awareness and brand envy.

What other television commercials do you recall from this past holiday season?  What made them stand out?