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super bowl logoThe research studies, expert opinions and post-mortems are rolling in. For some, the Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year. For others, it's the biggest (and certainly the most expensive) television advertising event. And there's never a shortage of gurus, pundits and wannabes eager to weigh in on how Super Bowl spots integrate with the online flavor du jour. It used to be Web sites, then search. This year, of course the talk is all about social media.

While everyone's measuring how many tweets and blog posts mentioned Super Bowl sponsor posts, little of the measurement takes effectiveness, advertiser goals or realistic key performance indicators into account. Social media measurement in this context almost harkens back to the bad old days when "hits" were the be-all, end-all of effectiveness metrics.

Market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey essentially dubs this year's TV spots a failure given 67 percent of viewers "took no online action at all" in response to ads. According to the firm, 12 percent visited an advertiser’s web site; 7 percent shared ads with friends; 2 percent tweeted about their favorite ad; and a scant 1 percent became Facebook brand fans. "Considering 47% of US adults went online during the game, let alone afterwards, advertisers did not seem to get the immediate direct response they were looking for."

Let's look at this another way. If very nearly half (47 percent) of US adults were watching the game, and one percent became brand fans on Facebook, that's .5 percent of the adult population of the entire United States of America. Similarly, 6 percent of the adult population visiting my website would not be terrible news (unless the servers buckled under the load). Social media is relativey new an all, but if I were a brand manager, these numbers would make me ecstatic. Particularly if there was no direct call-to-action in the ad to take social media action.

Perhaps in these early days it's more relevant to look at relative statistics. Intiative’s specialist social media unit Prophese finds of the 38 brands that ran ads during the game, 75 percent saw blog post mentions double, compared with the same evening over the past six months. Close to a third of Super Bowl saw a threefold rise in the number of blog posts. First-time advertiser Flo TV got a jaw-dropping 50X increase in posts. Doritos was up 13X, Vizio 7X, Hyundai 4X, and Kia and Budweiser 3X, respectively.

Radian6 and Mullen ran a joint experiment, Brandbowl2010, in which consumers were asked to tweet using the hashtag #brandbowl when mentioning ads during the game. A rather inside baseball way to crowdsource sentiment in such a mainstream event, but interesting to look at the results anyway: 98,656 tweets ranked the top 10 advertiser brands during the game. Doritos ranked No. 1 with 17,940 posts, 81 percent positive; Google was #2 with 10,341 posts, 75.3 percent positive.

The ad rankings march on: most popular, top scorers, most volume, most and least effective. And certainly all these tweets and blog posts and Facebook-friending is not to be sneezed at. If you're paying for Super Bowl priced media, you're going for the broadest reach you can get. Or, as Nielsen SVP Pat McDonough put it in a statement, "With Super Bowl advertisers adding thousands – if not millions – of commercial views through online and social media exposure, they are able to extend their multi-million dollar investments beyond the game itself."

Yet all these metrics apply to expressed sentiment, or sheer volume of mentions. What we've not yet seen are social media metrics that measure branding objectives such as brand lift, or purchase intent, or, in short, seeing how these metrics correlate to beer and tortilla chips and candy bars flying off of store shelves.

Until we can measure that stuff and loop all this social media activity back to advertiser goals - admittedly, no easy task in areas such as consumer packaged goods - what we're mostly looking at in all these Super Bowl social media studies are a bunch of consumers playing creative director.

Rebecca Lieb

Published 10 February, 2010 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

Follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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