To Win the Super Bowl of Ads and Social Media Don’t Bench Your MVP – Story

You may have heard about people in Vegas betting on the Super Bowl game, but brand marketers bet millions on the game every year as well. With the cost of $5 million for a 30 second Super Bowl ad and brands spending up to an additional 1 million on promotion to garner social media attention there is a lot riding on the ad game. We could call this the Super Bowl of Advertising and withe all the attention on views and shares it could also be the Super of Bowl of Social Media.

But with only 15% of the 60 to 70 ads run during the game able to make the top 10 why take such a risk? In an age of fragmented media and multiple device distraction, the Super Bowl is the last place advertisers can over 100 million people focused on watching the ads. Last year Google/YouTube reported that 330,000 hours of Super Bowl ads were played back online during the game. Not only are consumers watching, they are re-watching their favorites. This additional social media buzz is a big draw.

The risk is high for brand marketers, but also for the advertising agencies they hire. There is at least one reported case where an ad agency lost a 60 million dollar account for their Super Bowl ad not making the Top Ten list in USA Today’s Ad Meter despite noteworthy past performance. Interestingly the turning point for that brand and their agency seems to have come from leaving behind the previous MVP of their ads – chimpanzees.

What can we learn from the winners of the Super Bowl of ads? The proclaimed King of Beers, Budweiser, is the consumer confirmed King of Super Bowl ads. No brand has had more top performing Super Bowl ads than Bud and if they had an MVP it would have to be Budweiser’s Clydesdales. Clydesdale Super Bowl ads have finished in the top 5 of USA Today’s Ad Meter 8 times in the last 10 years. An 80% success rate is amazing.

Even Tom Brady and Matt Ryan only complete roughly 65% of their pass attempts. With an exceptional success rate Budweiser decided to bench its MVP in last year’s Super Bowl ad “Not Backing Down” where the Clydesdales and story arc took a minor role to product and brewery scenes. The result was dropping down to 28th in the poll. It would be like only playing Brady and Ryan a couple downs in the big game.

Does this mean the secret to Super Bowl Ad success is animals? Not necessarily. Out of USA Today’s Ad Meter top 5 since it started in 1989 only about 34% stared animals. That’s not very good betting odds. Plus, if you look at the rest of the ads below the top 10 and even the ones at the bottom of the poll many featured animals.

Like with MVPs such as Brady or Ryan it’s not just the players you also need good plays to win. For commercials it’s not just the characters, you need a good plot to attract and hold attention. The series of plays called in the game and the actions in the commercial move a story forward creating drama and tension. You have protagonist (Brady or Ryan) and antagonists (Patriots or Falcons) – opposing forces.

I just described Gustav Freytag’s theory of drama known as Freytag’s pyramid – the five-act formula used by Shakespeare. My research with Michael Coolsen analyzed two years of Super Bowl ads and found the key to Super Bowl ad popularity is whether it tells a story or not. It didn’t matter if you had animals or celebrities and used humor or sex appeal, the underlying factor to likability was plot. Super Bowl Ad Poll ratings were higher for commercials that follow a full five-act story arc and the more acts commercials had (like 3 versus 2) the higher the ratings.

Most of the Budweiser Clydesdale ads told full stories with the horses playing staring roles. In the three years they dipped below the top 10 (#17 in 2011, #26 in 2012, and #28 in 2016) the Clydesdales were not main characters and more importantly the ads did not tell compelling complete stories. Based on this playbook for winning Super Bowl Ads how will the do this year?

Reports indicate the Clydesdales will make only a brief cameo yet the commercial does tell the story of German immigrant Adolphus Bush’s journey to America. In a “Moneyball” type strategy, if the brand does tell a good story there just could be enough dramatic arc to make the top 10 despite the diminished role of their MVP Clydesdales. Of course, like the game itself there could be some upsets, but depending on story is a good bet for any brand when it comes to the Super Bowl of Advertising and Social Media.

Take a look for yourself. Here are the #1 Ad Meter Budweiser Super Bow commercial “Lost Dog” from 2015, last year’s #28 Super Bowl ad “Don’t Back Down” from 2016, and this year’s 2017 Super Bowl ad “Born The Hard Way.”

Programmatic: A Growing Part of Social Media Strategy

Previously I wrote about “Paid Social Media: Why You Need It And What Is Available.” In that post I discuss declining organic reach, the importance of adding native advertising to social media strategy and provide a guide to the current paid social media options. In this post I will discuss programmatic – a growing way to buy native ads or paid social media.

You may have heard about programmatic in terms of advertising media buying. Now 72% of U.S. online and mobile display spending is programmatic and it is moving into other media such as online video, TV, radio and even digital outdoor. So it should be no surprise that programmatic is also in social media like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn. MediaPost reports that social advertising is the fastest growing programmatic channel ahead of display and mobile.

Programmatic Ad Buying In Social Media, Content And Influencer Marketing Strategy

What is programmatic exactly? IAB says programmatic is automated buying and selling of media being sold by “one machine talking to another machine.” Marking Land says programmatic automates the decision process of media buying targeting specific audiences and demographics placed with artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time bidding (RTB). Programmatic media buying is in online display, mobile display, online video, social media advertising, and is expanding to digital outdoor, radio and TV.

Monica Lay of Adobe Social Advertising Solutions further clarifies that programmatic advertising has two distinct methods:

  1. Real Time Bidding (RTB): Auction-based ad transactions based on real-time impressions in open and private marketplaces.
  2. Programmatic Direct: Ads purchased via a publisher-owned application program interface (API) like Facebook and Twitter or an existing demand-side platform (DSP) like DoubleClick Ad Exchange or MediaMath.

What difference can programmatic make? More precise targeting and more efficient spending. Dean Jayson in The Huffington Post explains that Programmatic media buying can use online data (like browsing activity) and offline data (like loyalty card data) to laser target the placement of ads. Data brokers match offline data with online data and license data management platforms (DMP) to organize the data and use demand side platforms (DSP) to automate the execution of media buys.

This targeting based on data profile is different than targeting based on content. Jayson gives the example of a dog food brand buying ads on a cute puppy site. Many visitors just like looking at cute puppies, but may not have a dog to feed The marketer pays for impressions to the wrong target and the consumer sees an ad that is irrelevant. Programmatic is more precise by targeting consumers with a history of purchasing dog food (online or in-store).

Programmatic automation also saves marketers time. They set their target audience and forget it. The DSP finds the audience freeing up marketers’ time to focus on creating valuable and relevant content. Jayson says that programmatic data based targeting costs roughly half of content based targeting.

Programmatic brings these same benefits to social media channels. Ben Plomion, CMO of GumGum recommends programmatic in social because he says “to compete in today’s hyper-competitive online media world, you can’t sit back and wait for the traffic to come to you.” Social media marketers run more effective campaigns through automated buying and by reaching a precise audience with highly relevant messages. Plomion gives the example of Red Bull targeting videos to Twitter feeds of people who have viewed extreme sports sites.

Yet programmatic isn’t limited to buying ads and promoted posts on social media networks. Programmatic native advertising enables brands to place sponsored articles and videos directly through publishers like BuzzFeed, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Additionally a recent survey indicates native programmatic budgets are going to programmatic native platforms like Outbrain, Taboola, Sharethrough, Nativo and Bidtellect that place sponsored content across the web. These platforms boost brand content serving up links to sponsored articles with messages below publisher content saying, “you may also be interested in…”

Still programmatic social goes even further. Beyond social network ads and paid content marketing, influencer marketing offers programmatic ad buying. Adweek reports that ROI Influencer Media (representing 10,0000 influencers from celebrities to social media all stars) has partnered with programmatic platforms like Rubicon Project, PubMatic, OpenX, MediaMath and Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange. When buying programmatic ad packages, bundles of influencers appear as options where marketers pay for viewable impressions on influencers’ social media sites and walls. Authenticity is preserved through influencers still having final approval and control over their feeds.

Startups like Fanbytes are offering a programmatic Snapchat influencer marketing platform. Their dashboard enables marketers to bid on influencer ads programmatically buying branded content on influencer’ social media pages, blog pages, and websites. Not all influencers have to be mega celebrities. The startup Gnack offers programmatic buying of user-generated content from Snapchat and Instagram micro-influencers with less than 10,000 followers. These micro influencers can be very effective at reaching niche audiences based on campaign objectives, target demographics and preferred hashtags.

With increased content clutter and declining organic reach attracting an audience in social media can be problematic. But programmatic is an attractive way to boost reach and relevancy. How can programmatic improve your social media efforts?