When trying to drum up post-game buzz, brands are finding that the hashtag is the new URL.
If last year was the year that ads started incorporating Facebook addresses into their creatives, this year—at least this Super Bowl—might be the year that hashtags reign supreme. Or at least that’s what Adam Bain, Twitter’s president of global revenue, is predicting.
"We’re anticipating that at least half the Super Bowl commercials will have a hashtag this year," he says.
To help fuel the conversation this year, Twitter is sponsoring what it calls a first of its kind competition called Ad Scrimmage, where ads can compete to see which gets the most buzz in the week following the game. The system builds on previous voting programs Twitter has developed for shows like X Factor. Fans vote by tweeting and directing their followers to the custom ad gallery on the Super Bowl website. Ads that get the most votes move to the top of the list, and the winner gets a free Promoted Trend on Twitter.
Linda Boff, GE’s global head of digital marketing, says that her company is participating in the competition as part of a wider campaign to generate conversation based on its two Super Bowl ads. One of those, "Power And Beer," will show how GE’s energy businesses is helping to power the country. At the end, it will flash the hashtag #WhatWorks.
The campaign will tie into a social platform—including a website and a tab on their Facebook page—where people can submit stories about what’s working in their communities—as part of a larger effort at GE to try to counter the glum tone around the country’s economy. The hashtag will encourage Super Bowl viewers to continue the conversation on Twitter.
Boff says the success of the campaign won’t strictly be measured in terms of sales generated. Rather, she says, GE benefits from people simply talking about the company. "The more people know about GE, our technologies, their impact, and the people behind them, the more they want to partner with us, do business with us, and invest in us," she says. "That’s where we connect the dots."
Ads during the big game have traditionally been about creating such a splash that people can’t help talking about them the next day at the water cooler. Now brands are realizing that there’s no greater water cooler than Twitter. And if you play your cards right, you can get people talking long after that Monday morning coffee break.
Take Audi, for example. Last year, it bought a 60-second spot during the Super Bowl to launch its new A8 sedan. It called on viewers to move beyond outdated ideas of luxury. At the end, it slapped a hashtag on the screen that simply said "#progressis."
The spot spurred tweets by people talking about the ad—and about what progress meant to them. People searching for #progressis on Twitter saw a tweet from Audi at the top of the results. The car maker’s Twitter follower number surged 47 percent. "Audi owned this massive conversation," Bain says. The brand will be back this with a vampire-themed spot touting the 2013 Audi S7, finished off with the hashtag #SoLongVampires.
And more Super Bowl advertisers are getting into the hashtag game. Coca-Cola ads this Sunday, featuring their computer-generated polar bears, will encourage fans to use tweet about the ad using #GameDayPolarBears. An H&M ad, featuring intimate shots of David Beckham’s body-covering tattoos, promoting the soccer player-branded underwear, will include the hashtag #beckhamforhm.
Bain says that adding a hashtag to an ad increases conversation on Twitter by at least 2x, and sometimes as much as 10x.