Super Bowl Ad Buys: Social Media Will Impact Marketers' Decisions

Increased digital word-of-mouth marketing — using social media and other platforms — could shift marketers’ media plan dynamics for next February’s Super Bowl.

Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of digital strategic services, and Randall Beard, executive vice president and general manager of Nielsen IAG, write that “earned media” — material from social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook — “will be a huge test, as the new reality of consumer expression” for next year’s big football game.

For instance, Tweets embedded in Facebook feeds, blog entries and Google search results can have long-term value. They say these efforts, in conjunction with Super Bowl ads, can have a “latency” effect and provide brands with an almost endless annuity of “earned media.”

Nielsen cites the example of Nationwide Insurance, which three years ago ran a Super Bowl commercial featuring ex-Britney Spears husband Kevin Federline that grabbed over $20 million dollars in “earned media.”

Marketers are upping their use of social media to adjust their marketing in “real-time” — depending on the data available. For example, marketers in 2009 have been using Twitter to interact immediately with brand loyalists, looking to mend fences over consumer frustrations when it comes to products or services.

Such efforts create a bigger halo effect for the Super Bowl when it comes to paying some $2.5 million to $2.7 million for a traditional 30-second commercial.

Nielsen notes that the Super Bowl is still an effective TV platform, scoring strong research numbers — Super Bowl spots get 31% higher break-through scores and 93% higher likability numbers than a typical television ad.

Digging deeper, however, Nielsen says that marketers still need to act strategically to get the most out of their buys. For example, first- and second-quarter commercials get higher recall scores than third- and fourth-quarter spots. (The recall of fourth-quarter ads is about the same as an average TV commercial.)

But when it comes to “branded-integration” efforts, the opposite is true. “Recall and brand opinion are lowest pre-game, moderate during the game, and big gainers post-game,” say Nielsen. “For marketers, the mix is clear: Focus on ads early and branded-integration efforts late.”