Several weeks ago, Ford announced that it was taking a pass on the 2011 Super Bowl. According to marketing chief Jim Farley, the company decided that social media was a better investment. Farley explained, “Customers are spending as much time with the mobile smart phone or online as they are watching TV now, so our advertising dollars have to flow to where the people are.”
This brings up an interesting question: should companies focus on social media instead of Super Bowl advertisements?
Jim Farley is absolutely correct that people are spending a lot of time these days on smart phones and online. There is no question that we are seeing a massive change in how people receive information and interact. He is also correct that companies should focus more on the emerging platforms. Any company that is only spending on traditional media such as TV and print is missing out.
But the rise of social media doesn’t reduce the importance of the Super Bowl. If anything, it actually makes the Super Bowl more important. This is the case for several reasons:
First, the decline of traditional media means it is harder than ever to reach large numbers of people. As media fragments, audiences shrink. This is a huge problem for advertisers. Reaching 10,000 people is not a big achievement if you have a brand with 40% household penetration. You need big audiences to have an impact. The Super Bowl reaches more than 100 million people, more than any other media event in the United States, and the audience has actually been increasing in recent years.
Second, the rise of social media means that it is incredibly difficult to get people’s attention. The Super Bowl is unique because people actually watch it. More importantly for advertisers, people look forward to watching the commercials.
Third, people need something to talk about. Social media works for a brand when people want to interact with it. Having a Facebook page is of little use if people don’t care about your product. Brands that advertise on the Super Bowl, however, are inherently interesting. The Super Bowl is a platform to drive social media.
In the world of social media, the Super Bowl matters more than ever.
So is Ford making a mistake? Not necessarily. The Super Bowl is a media platform that works particularly well for new companies and companies with major new product news. It also works for companies trying to reposition a brand. Ford may not have significant news to communicate this year. In addition, the 2011 Super Bowl will feature advertising from many car brands, nine at latest count. It will be a cluttered environment, and Ford might not be able to stand out.
What do you think?
– Tim Calkins