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Monday, February 07, 2005

Firms To Monitor, Quantify Super Bowl's Buzz Marketing

MediaPost Publications
Firms To Monitor, Quantify Super Bowl's Buzz Marketing

by Shankar Gupta, Friday, Feb 4, 2005 8:00 AM EST

WHILE TENS OF MILLIONS OF Americans tune in to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, advertisers, agencies, and buyers will be watching the Internet with bated breath for a precious commodity--buzz.

Two companies--Cincinnati, Ohio-based Intelliseek and Arlington, Va.-based New Media Strategies--will closely watch the Internet traffic on millions of message boards, Web logs, and forums to determine which ads are touchdowns with the consumers and industry insiders, and which come up a few yards short.

"The Web is a water cooler on steroids," said Intelliseek Chief Marketing Officer Pete Blackshaw. "The online consumers are such a critical panel--they tend to be more attentive and observant, and if they're not clicking with the ad, the general population probably are in a worse situation."

To monitor the buzz on game day, Intelliseek has compiled a list of millions of blogs, message boards, and forums to watch for ad talk--and has assembled a panel of 40-50 Internet-savvy consumers and bloggers to live-blog the ads on Sunday. (Only Intelliseek clients will be able to view the blogs.) New Media Strategies has compiled a similar group of sites to watch, and has industry analysts scouring the Web for commentary on the ads.

In the simpler days before widespread Web access, companies could produce a Super Bowl ad, air it during the game, and then cross their fingers and hope for good word-of-mouth. Now, the game is different, and if an ad goes over well on Sunday, it could still be circulating the Web for years to come. Or, if an ad flops, an advertiser could be reminded of it every time they bring up Google and search for the company's name.

"The ROI can escalate dramatically over time. You can't think about buzz as a fleeting, ephemeral exercise. Part of what makes it so potent is that it leaves a digital trail," said Blackshaw. "But, if consumers have a negative reaction, the problem is that when you post consumer-generated media, it sits on a publicly available hard drive called the Internet, and all the comments are indexed. That probably drives the sensitivity of why advertisers are probably more readily pulling out this year. If there is discontent, it will be put on the permanent record."

And marketers won't have to wait for people to gather around the water cooler on Monday morning to find out how their ads did during the big game. According to New Media Strategies founder and CEO Pete Snyder, 2005 will be a "breakthrough" year for multitasking at Super Bowl parties around the country. "Not only are you going to have your über-fans making sure they're on top of the all the stats on the game, but they're also going to be online checking up on the ads, too," he said.

In addition to watching the consumers and ad fans that are going to be abuzz about this year's crop of ads, Snyder also said that the judgments of industry insiders will be critical to the agencies that have been entrusted with $2.4 million for 30 seconds of airtime. "It's the media buyers and it's the CMOs of the brands saying: 'Which agency am I going to place this bet on?'" said Snyder. "It really, truly is--on the dollar side--an insiders' game. It's important that agencies, even more so than brands, are getting the right kind of buzz."

According to Blackshaw, however, the ads might face some interference. "If this is just the best game ever, that'll dominate attention," Blackshaw said. "Advertisers want the game to be good enough to keep people watching, especially if they're advertising in the fourth quarter--but not so overwhelming that people forget there were ads at all."

And, of course, Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" last year overshadowed both the game and the ads, and the fallout from that event still echoes in search engines. "What we're seeing is that people are praying that there's no wardrobe malfunction from Paul McCartney this year," Snyder said.

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