Three Simple Steps To Score Online On Game Day

by Joshua Stylman
While football fans everywhere are gathering essential game-day provisions, advertisers are preparing for the biggest media event of the year. With the writers’ strike digging into network ratings, this year’s Super Bowl is more important than ever, as it virtually guarantees advertisers a gargantuan audience – the prospect of which has once again compelled the big spenders to pony up an average of $2.7 million for 30 seconds of air time.

More than any previous year, Super Bowl XLII presents a huge opportunity for advertisers to get the most out of their TV campaigns by treating them as part of a bigger, integrated, cross-channel initiative.

Of the 90 million people who watched last year’s Super Bowl, nearly 18 million – almost 20% – went online to get more information about the ads. Considering that 80% of online sessions start at a search engine, it is crucially important to integrate TV ads into a broader search engine marketing campaign. We’ve monitored the best and worst advertiser performances over the past few years, and have ripped some pages out of our playbook for 2008’s big spenders:

1. Tell viewers where to go, and give them a reason to go there.

Every Super Bowl ad should feature a visibly and audibly prominent URL and a clear and compelling call-to-action. It seems obvious, but is worth stating: marketers must provide direction and incentive to get people interacting with their brands online. Years past have shown that advertisers often drop the ball on this one — nearly one in five ads in the 2007 Super Bowl failed to include a URL, and a whopping 90% lacked a call-to-action. In contrast, Sales Genie, a first time advertiser, prominently featured a URL and a special offer in its ad and drew more than 10,000 online registrations as a result.

2. Make yourself easy to find and to recognize.

Of the 80% of people who begin at the search box, more than 68% never move beyond the first page of results. For Super Bowl advertisers, appearing on the first page of results determines whether consumers ultimately end up at your site or your competitor’s. Smart advertisers will not only buy search ads for brand and Super Bowl related keywords, but they’ll optimize their websites with the same key terms, to ensure that they appear in multiple places on the first page. What’s more, advertisers need to maintain consistent messaging across channels so people recognize online what they saw on TV. This increases the likelihood that viewers will click through an ad and engage with the site.

In 2007, nearly all the advertisers appeared in organic results for their own brand names. But only a quarter of them bid on Super Bowl keywords, squandering their chance to reach eager searchers with a timely, coordinated paid search message.

3. Engage people where they already spend time online.

Both MySpace and YouTube have seen exponential growth over the last few years, and this year they are hosting ads for free on their respective Super Bowl “channels”. Super Bowl advertisers can take advantage of these social hubs by optimizing their own profile pages, uploading ads right after they’ve aired, adding keyword tags to make videos easy to find, allowing users to share and embed videos, and cross-linking back to their own sites. Advertisers should also make sure they capitalize on any pre-Super Bowl buzz during and after the game.

In 2007, Doritos launched a “Crash the Super Bowl” video contest that allowed users to submit original ads that would be aired on game day. By soliciting consumer-generated videos across multiple social media profiles, Doritos built awareness and community in advance of the game. Unfortunately, Doritos fumbled their contest site design, didn’t properly cross-link their social media profiles and neglected to run paid search ads. Though they did receive a good amount of traffic, they could have done more to maximize it.

In sum, this year’s Super Bowl advertisers should not count on just the thirty seconds of viewer attention for which they’ve paid so dearly. It takes a lot longer than half a minute to meaningfully engage a potential customer, and advertisers have the chance to extend that time online. Now we’ll just have to wait and see which of the big players heed our advice to score touchdowns online, and which ones fumble.