Social TV: Commercials Are Just Really, Really Short Shows

Bluefin Labs Tracks Response to Sitcom-Like Spots for Mike's Hard Lemonade

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From a social-TV perspective, shows and commercials are basically all programming.

That's the suggestion of findings by our editorial partner Bluefin Labs, the Cambridge-Mass.-based social-TV analytics company, which tracks social-media response to both TV shows and the ads that appear during them.

It's not that the boundaries between shows and ads are necessarily blurring any more than they're already blurred; consumers are still smart enough to know when they're being sold to. But if you look at the social-media response to commercials, it's pretty clear that TV viewers are increasingly willing to talk about ads in the same way that they talk about shows: as bits of entertainment.

For this week's charticle, Ad Age worked with Bluefin to take a look at a particularly entertaining campaign: a range of spots for Mike's Hard Lemonade, which you can watch here. Scroll down below the graphic for some notes and context.

  • Bluefin examined a "pre-campaign" period (April 18 to May 8) -- when Mike's Hard Lemonade spots weren't running -- and then an "in-flight" period (May 9-22 ) when the campaign was in full swing.
  • Using its ad-tracking system, Bluefin recorded 642 commercial airings of spots for Mike's on TV in U.S. "We also know that these 642 commercial airings were broadcast on 421 different telecasts," says Bluefin's Mike Guigli. "We found that there were 6.8 million social-media comments prompted by these telecasts that came from 1 million unique social-media commenters. Those 1 million people make up what we call the 'exposed audience' -- the group of people that have a strong likelihood of seeing the Mike's ads because they were engaged in the show where the ads aired.
  • Looking at how often the exposed audience talked about Mike's in social media before and during the campaign, Bluefin was able to demonstrate a marked lift: +145%. The absolute numbers involved aren't huge -- pre-campaign Bluefin tracked 578 comments about Mike's vs. 1,123 comments while the spots were in flight -- but of course as a bit of "programming" a commercial is a really, really short show. Inspiring someone to comment in social media about a stand-alone 30-second TV spot is a way bigger challenge than getting them to comment about a show at some point during its much longer airtime -- around 22 minutes for a sitcom, for instance. And then, of course, comments about Mike's get carried far and wide through social media, which means that consumers are basically volunteering to say nice things (see below) about the brand to their extended networks.
  • It's telling that the Mike's spots borrow from the sitcom genre, in that they serve up a situation -- e.g., guys on a golf course encountering something surreally funny -- along with recurring characters for a sense of continuity from spot to spot. The lift that the Mike's commercials show in social media, says Guigli, shows that "the spots are breaking through the clutter and extending the campaign's reach beyond what's expected from paid media."
  • Among the social-media comments captured by Bluefin during its measurement period for our charticle: "lol this Mikes Hard Lemonade commercial funny as hell haha," "The Mike's Hard Lemonade commercial were the convicts come out of the golf hole >>> #hilarious," and "saw a commercial for mike's hard lemonade #tempted."

Stay tuned to for more data from Bluefin Labs. For more about Bluefin, visit its website.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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