Frank Holland - MSFT
Posted on 01/28/14

Is it possible to dunk in the dark? I would say yes! In my home, we felt compelled to try this new form of extreme dunking during last year’s Super Bowl. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones, as 15,000 people retweeted Oreo’s original post on Twitter following a blackout during the big game.

As you may recall, one of the most memorable aspects of Super Bowl XLVII last year between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens occurred not on the field, but off of it. Shortly after Beyoncé and the rest of Destiny’s Child rocked the stage at halftime, the lights went out just as the 49ers were looking for their chance to climb back into the game after falling behind early. For over half an hour, the Louisiana Superdome fell into darkness while confused players found themselves with a lengthy stretching session and an improvised post-halftime show attempted to keep restless fans entertained.

And this is exactly when the social media masterminds at Oreo tweeted: “Power out? No problem” along with an image of a solitary Oreo cookie in the dark and the now famous caption “You can still dunk in the dark.” Making a joke about one of the most surreal moments in Super Bowl history made Oreo seem more clever and relevant than any of the other brands that had spent months preparing for their big 30-second moment of fame during one of the most watched TV events of the year.

Imagine how those other ad executives felt as Oreo’s tweet – and corresponding brand awareness – spread like wildfire across the social media sphere. The cost of the Oreo “campaign”? A 15-person digital team consisting of on-call copywriters and strategists, waiting for just the right moment to drive real-time conversations. The cost of airing a 30-second spot during last year’s Super Bowl? A slightly heftier sum to say the least.

Now, let’s add some perspective. Last year, India’s space organization, ISRO, successfully launched a spacecraft to Mars, hoping to become the fourth space agency to reach the Red Planet. Why am I talking about India’s ambitions to explore what lies beyond our atmosphere? India's Mars mission cost $80 million. Airing a 30-second ad during last year’s Super Bowl cost around $4 million, according to CBS. Considering the last Super Bowl had more than 47 minutes of ad breaks during last year’s contest, you don’t need to be a mathematician to calculate that a few brands could have pooled their Super Bowl spend and flown to Mars and back.

The message is clear for this year: Be more Oreo.

As you are reading this blog, brands are putting their creative heads together to devise the next big Oreo moment, but will it be as unique? Will it feel as genuine? How to surprise Super Bowl ad watchers who expect brands to try and jump on the Oreo bandwagon? While this year’s Super Bowl viewers will be dunking their Oreos as they watch the sporting event of the year unfold, brands must go bigger, and I’m not talking about ad spend.

A funny tweet posted at the right time will not cut it this year. To really capture the audience and make an impact, brands must tell their stories through quality, immersive ads or unique experiences that are targeted to their audience, and across screens, no matter what activity, device, service or content Super Bowl fans are engaging with. From platform to platform, and across all four screens that connect the audience to the world around them – from mobile to tablet, from PC to the TV screen.

We must provide an ecosystem that connects brands to consumers with seamless experiences. The brand experience that spreads across and adapts to multiple screens is more engaging, immersive and innovative. It has the power to change perceptions. It has the power to change behaviour.

It is undeniable that as more people watch the Super Bowl, so too are they paying less attention to what is actually happening in the field. Case in point: Thirty-six percent of Super Bowl viewers use a second screen to supplement the experience during the big game, according to Mashable. This means over a third of the viewing audience will be busy gazing at sports news apps on their smartphones or tablets for behind-the-scenes commentary. They’ll be live-tweeting and chatting with their friends about the biggest moments of the game, the funniest or most poignant ads, or even using their devices to bet on who will win the Lombardi Trophy.

While I’m eager to find out which team will come out on top next week, I’m even more excited to witness the next big Oreo moment. Which brand will be the one to emerge victorious from the ultimate battle of the brands this year? Place your bets! I’m betting on the brand whose triumphant moment materializes across all four screens.

- Frank Holland, corporate vice president of the Advertising and Online business at Microsoft Corp.

Tags: msa news, msanews, Social Media, superbowl
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