Super Bowl

LivingSocial Makes Super Bowl Pre-Game, Oscars Play

Aggressive Ad Strategy From Group-Buying Site, Martin Agency Looks to Close Gap With Rival Groupon

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LivingSocial's 30-second spot will run in the last pod prior to the game.
LivingSocial's 30-second spot will run in the last pod prior to the game.

NEW YORK ( -- LivingSocial is ready to raise its profile, with a pre-game Super Bowl spot and three Oscars-related spots.

The strategy is meant to further boost LivingSocial's visibility and support the group-buying site's aggressive 2011 growth plans. It also comes on the heels of news that rival Groupon snagged a slot in the Super Bowl, after being relegated to pre-game and post-game slots. Camille Watson, VP-marketing and communications, said LivingSocial is happy with its pre-game placement and that the spot signals the beginning of a larger advertising push. The company's plans haven't been affected by Groupon's strategy, she added.

"Super Bowl is obviously the biggest TV event of the year and an opportunity for us to reach a mass audience with our message of great value for unique and awesome experiences," said Ms. Watson, who joined the company in September. "The Super Bowl spot is really intended to break through to that audience in a humorous way. We wanted it to be lighthearted and fun."

The 30-second spot, which will run in the last pod prior to the game, features a burly, masculine type transforming as a result of LivingSocial's deals. The spot was created by Martin Agency, LivingSocial's agency of record. The agency is also creating two spots for the Academy Awards telecast, though Ms. Watson said a decision hasn't been made about whether both will be used. It has secured three spots to be spread across red carpet pre-show and the actual awards show. ABC has been seeking about $1.7 million per 30-second spot on the Feb. 27 show.

Ms. Watson said LivingSocial tapped Martin in the fall after conducting a low-key agency review. Testing on TV work began in November and plans to make a splash around the Super Bowl and Oscars took shape late last year. It's also working with Mullen's Mediahub on media buying. That's counter to what LivingSocial told Ad Age in January, when it said it hadn't hired an agency and wouldn't be running TV ads anytime soon. Ms. Watson said that statement was due to an internal miscommunication.

The embrace of more traditional advertising is meant to help the brand fuel its "aggressive" growth plans, Ms. Watson said. Up until now, LivingSocial had relied on online advertising and word of mouth. It encourages and rewards users for sharing deals with friends via email, Twitter and Facebook. The company declined to comment on its advertising budget.

"The Super Bowl is our springboard into further advertising activities," Ms. Watson said. "The creative we're working on is fantastic, and I'm sure that the messages are going to resonate with consumers."

Group-buying sites have dramatically raised their profile in the last few months. Groupon, the leader in the space, put itself on the map with a popular Gap deal last summer. It also grabbed headlines with its rebuff of Google's $6 billion acquisition offer. Likewise, LivingSocial landed a $175 million investment from Amazon in December and boosted its profile with an Amazon gift-card deal last month. It sold 1.16 million vouchers for the Amazon deal, 86% of which have already been redeemed. The site says it added 5 million subscribers to its ranks in January.

One can only imagine how the Groupon-LivingSocial rivalry will heat up in 2011. LivingSocial says it's now in 170 markets and plans to be in 300 by the end of the year. Groupon says it is in about 300 markets. "We're on track to beat our competitor in the U.S.," Ms. Watson said.

If last month is any indication, LivingSocial is well on its way. In December, Groupon's U.S. site visits outnumbered LivingSocial 10 to 1, according to data from Experian Hitwise. By the week of Jan. 22, LivingSocial had begun closing the gap, with more than half the site visits of Groupon. Between the week of Dec. 4 -- the week Amazon poured $175 million into LivingSocial -- and the week of Jan. 22, U.S. visits surged 254% at the site, while Groupon's increased only 10%.

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