Five Trends: How Brands Integrated Social, Mobile, and Web into 2012 Super Bowl Advertisements

By Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang, Brian Solis, and Zak Kirchner

Findings: Five Trends Indicate Cross Channel Integration a Mainstay. Super Bowl ads, while only representing the nation’s largest consumer facing ads are a bellwether for advertising trends for the remainder of the year. To best understand these trends, Altimeter Group’s research team analyzed each Ad in real time, and conducted analysis to best understand the advertising trends for 2012.  Using Chicago as a middle ground, we reviewed all ads from kickoff till the game clock expired and found that trends out of 87 advertisements.

  • Trend 1) Brands Heavily Invested in Promoting Traditional Websites
  • Trend 2) Surprisingly, Many Did Not Promote a Call-To-Action
  • Trend 3) Only a Sixth of Ads Explicitly Promoted Social Media
  • Trend 4) Hashtag Marketing Emerged to Stimulate Continual Engagement
  • Trend 5) Cutting Edge Marketers Teased with New Marketing Tactics, including Shazam

2012 Superbowl Ad Analysis:  Less than one-third of Ads don't promote cross channel
Above Graphic One: 2012 Superbowl Ad Analysis: Less than one-third of Ads don’t promote cross channel

2012 Superbowl Ad Analysis: Corporate URLs still reign supreme
Above Graphic Two: 2012 Superbowl Ad Analysis: Less than one-third of Ads don’t promote cross channel

Rather than push for fans and followers on social sites, brands invested in promoting traditional websites, and experimented with new forms of engagement like applications, Shazam, and even promoting hashtags. We found five trends:

Trend 1) Brands Heavily Invested in Promoting Traditional Websites
We found that 49% linked to a corporate website URL, also 9% linked to a microsite URL for a total of 57% of all Ads linking to traditional URLs. This standard deployment comes at no surprise, as a call to action is often needed for advertising ROI, and traffic surges are often the most common way to measure this. Surprisingly, despite many game watchers having multiple devices on in tandem to the TV, a whopping 32% did not have any online references to either a URL, or even a social site.

Trend 2) Surprisingly, Many Did Not Promote a Call-To-Action
In a surprising move, brands did not have a direct call to action. In fact, 32% did not link to any social site or URL as listed in trend 1. For example Chrysler’s Imported from Detroit showed the logos of their car lines, but did not have any URLs. Likely this is due to high brand recognition of brands, and the goal was to drive awareness, consideration but not drive leads or intent on a website. Why did brands do this? We believe for a few reasons: to drive conversation among friends, or to make an impactful statement, or lastly because we live in a Google world, consumers can readily find URLs without being prompted.

Trend 3) Only a Sixth of Ads Explicitly Promoted Social Media
We define this instance as Ads that showed their social networking accounts like Facebook, Twitter, or even hashtags in text, or sometimes even written on signs in the ad content itself.  Unlike previous Super Bowls where consumer generated ads were infused with traditional ads, we saw less than expected integration of content from the crowd. This year, we didn’t see any explicit mentions of content that was created by the crowd. Furthermore we found low integration with social media, in fact, 16% of brands linked or mentioned their social networking accounts. Among them 11% linked to Facebook, 2% to Twitter. We did not capture any integration with Youtube, Linkedin, or Google+.   Despite the low explicit mentions of social in the Ads, nearly all of the ads are cross-posted on YouTube.

Trend 4) Hashtag Marketing Emerged to Stimulate Continual Engagement
While Twitter helped to promote their platform with the Twitter Ad Scrimmage (which lists more hashtags than we saw in-Ad), we found that 6 ads explicitly promoted hashtags (total of 7%), and only 2 brands promoted their Twitter accounts (2%).  Interestingly, when hashtags were deployed, we found that traditional URLs nor a request to fan or follow. To highlight, General Electric’s Ad focuses on how their technology is a key component of the beer value chain, pointed only to a hashtag “#whatworks” rather than promote a URL or a social networking account. I asked GE’s Twitter account why they did this and they responded to me in Twitter “@jowyang It’s all about shared conversation tonight (and tomorrow). We want to hear from people. #whatworks” This sea change in tactics is an indicator of how brands want to extend the experience beyond the expensive 30 second Ad to an ongoing permanent discussion. Additional hashtag engagement was found by Budweiser pushing #makeitplatinum (in two ads, by our count), Audi’s #SoLongVampires, Best Buy’s #betterway, and underwear line using #beckhamforhm.  These investments appeared to pay off as both Budweiser’s “#makeitplatinum” and Audi’s #SoLongVampires became trending topics minutes after their ads published, there was no indicator that either were sponsored.

Trend 5) Cutting Edge Marketers Teased with New Marketing Tactics, including Shazam
Beyond promotion the traditional website, microsite and social media account, brands have started experimenting with promoting new forms of marketing engagement for a total of 11% total incidence. To extend the experience, 3 ads promoted applications (often showing on an iPhone like Citibank’s Ad), 3 promoted SMS interaction, and GoDaddy promoted a QR code. We found that brands were integrating Shazam, a music finding application. In particular, Elton John in an Q1 Pepsi Ad was the first to promote this integration, encouraging further interaction by downloading media. Although not emerging, in the traditional sense, Etrade even promoted their phone number, which likely drove direct engagement. Brian Solis notes that this extends the experience and audience now becomes more engaged by downloading and consuming media beyond the game day.

Summary: Promoting Traditional Websites Still King –Social Integration Nascent
A majority of efforts had a focus on making a market impact by asserting new positioning, and linking to traditional websites and microsites.   Unlike previous years which pushed CGM in Ad content, or a direct push to fan and follower, brands in 2012 were more focused on engagement in social media, extending the life of the campaign.  A set of brands didn’t promote any cross-channel engagement, instead focusing on a powerful message, which we should expect to be a trend as brands can be found in every channel, esp aided by search.    New forms of marketing are emerging that result in integrating data from applications, as well as mobile experiences, that we’ll continue to see pioneer through the year.

Altimeter Group, a research advisory firm, had a team of researchers including Jeremiah Owyang, Zak Kirchner, and a third party oursourced resource for independent data collection take note of each advertisement and notate if they linked to a URL, (corporate website or microsite) mentioned social media, or used other tools in the Chicago area, which is mid-country. Secondly, Altimeter retrieved a list of brands that were advertising and was able to retrieve Facebook fan and Twitter follower numbers in order to compare pre versus post (stay tuned). Scope of ads captured were post-kickoff, to end of game when game clock expired. We did not use ads mentioned by NBC during the game highlights. We found that some ads were localized for the Chicago market vs other markets, however the ratios and trends cross-country are likely accurate.  In the spirit of Open, we’ve made the data public on Google Sheets.

Update: AdRants has commented on the data. Update: This data mentioned on USA Today.

41 Replies to “Five Trends: How Brands Integrated Social, Mobile, and Web into 2012 Super Bowl Advertisements”

  1. It’s interesting that both Chevy and Doritos (and maybe others) were running consumer generated ads, but neither made that explicitly clear. It was more of a back story to generate discussion online leading up to the Super Bowl, vs a selling point for the ad itself.

  2. how does the superbowl data compare to nationally run TV creative? interesting to see the percentages that contained urls, hashtags, shazam etc but its hard to agree or disagree with the analysis without any context. for instance, if 20% of nationally run tv ads have social callouts, then why the decline in SB? 

  3. I believe that the current interactions between TV programs and advertisers is horribly inefficient. It appears we are seeing a shift in the rationalization of tentpole events like the Superbowl to address continuity  in addition to directly attributable sales lift. The hashtags are one example, another is Volkswagen’s one-two commercial punch. 
    The days of being able to placate non-O&O affiliates with glitter is over. I think the league needs to be able to do a better job of presenting top advertisers with premium advertising opportunities at the last second, such as the highly-rated NE/DEN game featuring Tim Tebow vs Tom Brady. 

  4. nice analysis and summary, jeremiah. all i’d add is that it’s no surprise that there was a dearth of call to action with SB ads. typically, SB ads are about or support brand-level messaging and therefore don’t really lend themselves to conversion granularity. i’d bet that within 5 years, when social tv emerges as a relevant platform for delivering immediate value-add, SB ads will be predominantly conversion based because “brand” ads will have a mechanism for creating real-time conversion within the spot.

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  6. These ads Ed, were created for a specific incident and event, and are not likely the same as the run of the mill ads we may see all year long.   Far more goes into the creative. 

  7. If we don’t see CGM in ads in 2013 superbowl, then we may have seen that trend come and go.   Now with so much content available, brands (actually, everyone, for that matter) must stand out from the crowd.  

  8. I think the fact that 32% had no clear call to action is pretty amazing.  I think sometimes companies get so caught up in what is new in marketing the basics go right out the window.

  9. I noticed an uptick in Twitter hashtags, but I’m not surprised that most companies were promoting their website URLs. It can be hard to track social media ROI; but if their commercial airs and their traffic goes up, and a couple days later they notice sales going up, that’s ROI.

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