Last Updated Feb 4, 2010 1:11 PM EST
It could be the first time in Super Bowl history that what marketers do online proves to be as important as their willingness to bet $3 million on a 30 second TV spot.
With New Orleans Saints fans in particular expected to be tweeting about the big game from their Droids, according to ARSgroup's BrandProfiler, the new challenge is for advertisers to nab target consumers on their own turf in social media exchanges. (The marketing services firm contends from a recent survey that, among other things, Saints fans are generally more affluent, Droid owners and Tweeters than Indianapolis Colts fans.)
Some Super Bowl advertisers are making a direct interactive grab, according to Advertising Age.
CareerBuilder is encouraging Super Bowl ad fans to vote on consumer-created commercials in a "Hire My TV Ad" contest. The winning spot is aired by the end of the game. Doritos is sponsoring another "Crash the Super Bowl" contest for homemade ads that can garner notable response in the polls. kgb is pitching its '542542' text-answer searches by "special agents."
All well and good, but the marketers who figures out how to inject themselves -their products and services - into fans' social media streams will be the real winners. That's because despite the newly 150 million viewers expected to tune in for the TV event, the greatest lasting impact will come from what proves relevant to the individual consumer in their space.
PepsiCo gets this. It informed CBS last fall it would move all of its beverage-related Super Bowl advertising for the first time in two decades to social media and online philanthropy. Not surprisingly, rival Coca-Cola, is using its Super Bowl spots to encourage sharing virtual gifts with friends on Facebook and donating to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
That CBS has sold out its Super Bowl inventory pricing 30-second spots on par with last year's $2.5 million to $3 million is not the barometer for success it used to be. Getting in front of a rare mass audience for television in an increasingly fragmented media market has become even more important for little guys like Diamond Foods' Pop Secret and Home Away vacation rentals, among this year's first-time Super Bowl advertisers. Even the ads banned from this year's Super Bowl will find a permanent place online.
But making the interactive connection with consumers most interested in your products and services -on websites, on mobile devices and in conversation streams like Twitter - has become paramount for all companies seeking to benefit from word-of-mouth, peer-recommendations and impulse e-commerce spending. The action is in social media and on the Web - not on the giant LCD screen.
Borrell Associates is predicting mobile advertising will be a $16 billion business by 2012 and that local broadcasters in particular should be using apps to engage consumers to build niche communities. It will be interesting to see whether CBS affiliated TV stations creatively use their local ad time to promote multi-device interactivity with consumers.
Ultimately, causing a social network buzz is one thing; being able to generate money off of it is quite another.
I'm not sure who is measuring that during or after the big game, but I sure would like to see those numbers.