Neither Doritos nor GM -- or the NFL, for that matter -- bought search ads around their Super Bowl creative, despite creating huge PR buzz beforehand with the contests.
No paid search from Doritos
That means that after the game, when people went to Google to search for "Doritos super bowl ad," there were no sponsored search results for the Doritos-backed microsite that housed the content. Instead, paid search results from CBS Sportsline and YouTube showed up at the top of the page, and searchers could as easily have clicked on those than find the marketer's branded page in the organic (or non-paid) search results.
The same was true for the term "GM super bowl ad," except the YouTube and CBS Sportsline paid search results were joined by ones from Edmunds.com, InsideLine.com and CarSpace.com. Indeed, the first organic search result didn't even point to GM's consumer-created ad (for the Chevy HHR) but instead took people to the automaker's press release announcing the contest.
"[Organic search] gives marketers some degree of visibility, but paid search gives them the ability to tailor that message and drive that to the appropriate landing page," said Peter Hershberg, managing partner of Reprise Media, which authored the Super Bowl search-marketing scorecard. "There could've been tons of incremental lift if they'd bought a handful of keywords specific to that ad and they just didn't follow with that."
Counting on postgame buzz
Marketers paying $2.6 million to run an ad in the Super Bowl are generally counting on postgame buzz to prolong the life of an ad, and many spots include a web address as part of the creative to direct viewers to a branded site. But not buying search terms around the ad lets people head to an aggregator site, and marketers miss out on potential traffic to their own sites.
"Though some people might be more interested in the commercial right now and maybe not the product the company sells, once you get them on your site, you have opportunity to cross-sell or talk about other benefits -- things you may not be able to do in a 30-seond spot," said Mr. Hershberg.
In essence, CBS Sportsline, YouTube and Edmunds by buying search terms around the marketers' Super Bowl ads were "drafting," to borrow a term from racing. Drafting means that through paid search, a marketer can capitalize on another's Super Bowl ad without spending a penny of their own on the big game. Last year, GM "drafted" on Ford's Super Bowl buy, snapping up keywords associated with its rival'sw Kermit-the-frog-starring ad. Ford again this year did not appear to buy search terms associated with its latest Super Bowl ad.
Among the game's top search performers were Pizza Hut, Salesgenie.com and GoDaddy. While Ad Age's Bob Garfield panned the Salesgenie.com ad, Mr. Hershberg lauded its call to action, which gave viewers a distinct reason to head online after the game (it promised 100 free sales leads). Mr. Hershberg also lauded the landing page, which had a clear path for those interested in the Super Bowl ad. And Pizza Hut, Mr. Hershberg said, smartly used paid search to send people to a Pizza Hut-branded YouTube channel rather than its own corporate site.
Yahoo Search Marketing also felt Super Bowl marketers could have done a better job bidding on search terms. Anne Frisbie, VP of category, Yahoo Search Marketing, said advertisers could have milked more out of the buys if they'd coordinated search campaigns better. She noted that in some cases it seemed the search-marketing teams may have not seen the TV ads in advance, and issued an example via e-mail: "GM had very strong search campaigns in place, but could have gone a step further in closing the loop with consumers by bidding on terms prominent in the TV ads, such as 'American Revolution' or 'GM Warranty.'" She praised Pepsi and Pizza Hut for strong tie-ins.
There were missed opportunities, but the good news is the overall number of marketers buying keywords around their brand name during this year's Super Bowl was up from last year -- rising to 61% from just less than half a year ago. And Mr. Hershberg said there will be plenty of other opportunities to use search to measure buzz and engagement and migrate people from a 30-second spot to a website. "Cross-channel integration isn't a once in a year opportunity," he added.