No Good: Missed Opportunities to Infuse Super Bowl Spend with Email

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As far as return on marketing investments go, there’s plenty of evidence that email takes the cake. With TV ads crazy expensive (nearly $4 million for a 30-second spot) and uncertainty surrounding the ROI of social media, I’m frankly surprised at how Super Bowl ads continue to push viewers to their computers and mobile devices to interact over social media (that is, if they even have a call to action in the first place).

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably biased because I’m a marketer (I’ve read ExactTarget’s Marketers from Mars research!). Personally, I find the Twitter backchannel during country-scale events (election debates, the Super Bowl) absolutely fascinating. In some cases, these tweets can be more interesting than the event itself, providing criticism, insight, discussion and plenty of jokes. This year’s game was no different, with my Twitter feed full of marketing critique and kudos as timeouts were called and ads were aired. Sometimes I would check out the URL or hashtag displayed in the ads I saw, but for the most part I wasn’t participating with brands in any meaningful way.

Blackout + Twitter = Marketing Gold?

As soon as the blackout struck, my attention turned completely over to Twitter. Soon enough, I caught wind of “brilliant” tweets coming from big-name brands trying to capitalize on the Superdome’s misfortune:


I don’t follow Audi or Oreo on Twitter. So where did I hear about these timely tweets? Not from the regular folks in my stream, but from all my marketing buddies following the events online.

But what did regular folks do during the blackout? Grab another beer? Use the restroom? Check their email? Back to that thought in a moment.

Seizing the moment

Arguably, Twitter (and other social channels) are best equipped for this type of quick response to timely events. Oreo, Audi and Tide are great examples. Oreo just happened to have their agency and a team of executives and other stakeholders assembled in a “mission control center” to monitor chatter from a different campaign that launched earlier that evening. Why not jump into the fray and carpe diem when opportunity strikes? That’s quick thinking—and smart marketing. Their tweet was creative, appropriate, on-brand and cheap (free! even), amassing more than 16,000 retweets.

An equally creative—but undoubtably planned —Tweet from Oreo got much less attention that evening:

But what’s the value of all those retweets? And how many came from consumers, as opposed to slack-jawed marketers? I tend to agree with Jeff:

Brilliant Marketing or Echo Chamber Chatter?

You might argue that only marketers noticed this shard of marketing brilliance. I don’t think I would have heard about these brands and their timely tweets had it not been for my fellow marketing friends complimenting their wit and speedy response.

And as a consumer, I certainly don’t feel like these pithy tweets have the potential to affect my purchasing behavior. Sure, the brands might be top of mind, but I’m not going to switch from Method (my laundry detergent of choice) to Tide just because they happened to have their social media manager on call that night. And there’s some stats to back up my gut: only 8.4% of respondents of a 2012 survey from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association reported being influenced to purchase a product as a result of a commercial. I doubt a tweet (or 16,000 retweets) has much more influence.


Let’s get back to email. You might argue that spectator’s eyes are glued to the TV during the big game… but who’s to say their tablet isn’t also in their lap? According to Nielsen, 88% of American tablet owners admit to using their device while watching TV, and 45% report doing so on a daily basis. With email being one of tablet user’s top activities, you’d better bet folks at home were checking their email while watching the game.

But with all those stats at hand, why didn’t more marketers send emails during the big game? As Lauren mentions in her Super Bowl email round-up, we received just a single email on the clock: a nudge from Rue La La to shop their weekly Sunday-night “styleathon” during the halftime show (subject line: “Turn up Beyonce. And turn up the Styleathon. It’s time to shop.”)

I’d argue that this was was a greater example of marketing brilliance than any of the tweets I saw that night. And I bet that Rue La La didn’t need to have their agency or social team on call that night, instead planning the campaign in advance and scheduling it to go out around the time that Beyonce was set to take the stage. The blackout was just a bonus: extra time to kill = extra time to shop online.


“It’s no surprise that many Super Bowl advertisers turn to Facebook or Twitter to extend the life of their commercials” says Jessica Gioglio of Great strategy, but perhaps a bit misguided. Email is “stickier” than social—your Twitter stream during the Super Bowl moves quickly and individual tweets can easily be missed, whereas emails demand attention—whether that’s an open, click or even hitting delete. The point is that the consumer has to interact with the email, whereas social media is more transient.

According to a survey from the MMA and SessionM:

While a whopping 91% of viewers used their mobile devices during the commercials, most of those people were not actively responding to the ads. Only 35% of respondents reported completing a follow-up action on their phones after an ad aired. At least 21% of respondents said they would like to see more commercials that incentivized taking action on their phones, or offered additional content.

Consumers want to take action! They want additional content! Sounds like the perfect use case to send an email.

It seems like Rue La La was the only brand to take advantage of email during the game, and it’s blackout timing was likely a happy accident. Maybe the blackout was the perfect opportunity to break out your ad-hoc email template and send out a quirky message (disclaimer: I’m by no means comparing a Super Bowl blackout to a hurricane, it’s just a great post on ad-hoc email templates).

Coordinating efforts to send an email reinforcing the messaging in your commercials or social media campaigns should be a no-brainer. Taking advantage of audience engagement during the Super Bowl and piggybacking off of that giant ad spend with an email follow-up just makes good sense—and nearly $40 for every $1 spent. I’m not by any means arguing that brands shouldn’t be using social media to engage their audiences, but rather asking why email wasn’t a bigger part of Sunday’s game. Email is the affordable workhorse of an effective cross-channel marketing strategy that is consistently underutilized, and this year’s Super Bowl was no exception.