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by Peter Kim  |  
August 25, 2008

$3,000,000: the early estimate on how much a 30-second ad in the next Super Bowl will cost. TV advertising isn't dead -- although content may be time-shifted via DVR, internet video, and mobile downloads, some programs just aren't any good when they're not fresh.

A weekly sitcom or drama is like a can of tuna; you can put it on the shelf and it'll stay good indefinitely. But some content - like sports and news - are highly perishable and more like sushi; it's not very appealing after it's been out for a while. On top of that, many people hate football but watch the Super Bowl just for the ads. The NFL season hasn't even started yet, but NBC is coming off the most viewed event in U.S. TV history.
"But wait!" you say. "What about social media? Customers in control! Advertising doesn't work anymore!" I've been thinking about these issues quite a bit lately and have to break it to you, social media marketing doesn't scale. Most experts agree - social media fits works best as part of an integrated mix, but not at either end of the marketing funnel: the front (building awareness) or the end (driving purchases). For the latter, shopper marketing and direct tactics guided by analytics work best. For the former, mass media works best.
When will a social media marketing campaign be able to claim that it reached 209 million people over a three week period? How about 715 million people for a single event?
$3,000,000 will get you a lot of social marketing stuff. For a category manager, you can set up get your brand portfolio hooked up quite nicely with an enterprise-level brand monitoring contract, a handful of virtual private communities, widgets galore, some sponsored Facebook pages, WOM campaigns, and more. You'll probably even have enough left over to hire the people you need to monitor and manage all those things, because your current skeleton crew has enough to handle in the name of "budget accountability."
But when you work for a public company like P&G and have to generate *billions* of dollars in top-line growth every year, is "conversational marketing" going to get the job done? In the long-run, probably. The seeds of tomorrow's basis for competitive advantage (i.e. strategy) are being sown today. But in the short-run, marketers need to show results and hang on to their jobs.
Social technologies can help marketers get ready for the new brand world of tomorrow, by building a solid internal foundation today. So I say spend it on the ad and lock in the low rate now. What do you think?

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Peter is Chief Strategy Officer of Dachis Group and a leading advisor on social business. He co-authored the book Social Business By Design and drives global industry discourse at and as @peterkim on Twitter.

Peter has been quoted by media outlets including CNN, CNBC, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal and featured as a speaker at events including SXSW, Web 2.0 Expo, and Dachis Group Social Business Summits.

Peter was previously an analyst at Forrester Research and head of international marketing operations, e-commerce, and digital marketing at PUMA AG. He holds degrees from the Darden School at the University of Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania.

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  • by Paul Barsch Mon Aug 25, 2008 via blog

    Peter, thanks for reminding us that social media is an important part of the mix, but traditional marketing vehicles are still in play and can work quite well depending on a company's overall objectives. Q: For a company like P&G, what % of budget would you allocate to social media (rough estimate)? 10%?

  • by Eric Holter Mon Aug 25, 2008 via blog

    Social media is exciting and the impact it's having on brands and "branding" is significant. But your observations are right--mass media advertising is still powerful, especially for new consumer product announcements and general awareness campaigns. Case in point, NBC has cleaned up on the olympics this year. I'm always uneasy when we, as digital media enthusiasts declare the "death" of things like mass media. Cluetrain for example, over-states the case--marketing indeed includes conversations, but marketing isn't only "conversations." I don't anticipate the end of mass media, nor do I think that would be a good thing. What I do love though, is how social media/conversational media is having a powerful effect on what mass media can do or say--it's holding brands accountable for their claims and actions. No longer can they push a message or an image without thinking of the consequences that our many voices in aggregate will say in response. As one of my favorite Advertising Age articles stated last year, "Integrity in Marking in Not Optional."

  • by Peter Kim Mon Aug 25, 2008 via blog

    Hi Paul - I would budget up to a point where returns are maximized in an integrated mix. For some marketers, the answer may be 0%, because other channels like search or trade have higher returns. But that raises the question of "which budget?" With the negligible cost of participation in social media today, marketers may find this money going towards consulting or headcount, rather than media spend... Hi Eric - agreed. Case in point: have you seen the video comparing Apple's new iPhone 3G commercial to actual performance?

  • by Imagine Mon Aug 25, 2008 via blog

    I think $3,000,000 dollars says it all -- and that doesn't include the several other million it takes to plan and shoot an effective commercial. The TV advertising medium is intended for big players and no one else. It is like a marketing / advertising country club if you will.

  • by Nick Stamoulis Mon Aug 25, 2008 via blog

    Mass Media + Social Media = Go Together. The two are unstoppable but I can't see Mass Media ever quite dying out. Perhaps it's lost much of its momentum but for special events like the Olympics and the Super Bowl, it certainly still is thriving.

  • by Ann Handley Mon Aug 25, 2008 via blog

    Hi Peter -- Interesting post. Two comments: 1. It seems to me that social media is part marketing and part philosophy, or it inspires as much. In other words, the whole "customers in control" bit informs customer service and the corner office (and more) as much as marketing and sales, and it resonates across the company beyond the notion of just selling stuff. 2. I hadn't seen that iPhone video.. so thanks for that!

  • by BJ Cook Mon Aug 25, 2008 via blog

    To Ann's point about "is part marketing and part philosophy", your organization either has buy in for engaging in the social media spectrum or doesn't. There seems to be an understanding that spending money on advertising is attributed to some type of immediate gratification with the expectation that we're going to see a spike in traffic, brand awareness and potentially sales. Where the social media campaign investment = old style lawn mower, needs a couple tugs to get going and someone at the helm to manage and execute with no short term gains. The immediate payoff is a couple mentions, Twitter posts, blog pickups, links, etc. But if you don't see the real long term value, I get the feeling most people have a wait and see attitude. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. Like Heidi says on Project Runway, "you're either in or you're out." This mentality is very true with the Super Bowl Ad vs. Social Media investment. Just my two cents.

  • by jeremy Tue Aug 26, 2008 via blog

    Some solid points by you and your commenters. My only concern is that almost every company thinks "in the short run" and that your last few lines give marketers a reason to back burner social media. This will come back to haunt them later.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Thu Aug 28, 2008 via blog

    I watched the Olympics with some people who seemed as much into the ads as the events. I learned this when I committed the social foul of hitting the mute button during the commercials under the mistaken assumption that people were in it for the sport. The howls of protest let me know that the favorite competition was for the gold in most amusing ad. The cool "Hank" the Clydesdale (coached by the dog) commercial even came back for another round along with some other favorites from the Super Bowl.

  • by Peter Kim Sat Aug 30, 2008 via blog

    Jeremy - how far in the future is later? I think that it might be as prolonged as a generation.

  • by Marti Barletta Fri Sep 5, 2008 via blog

    Peter & Other Posters - Thank you all for one of the best discussions and variety of perspectives on social vs mass media I have ever seen. Well thought-through, and well-articulated, it is the first time in ages I haven't felt like I'm lost in the wilderness - the only marketer in the world who apparently didn't see social media (and mobile media, may I add) as the "must-have" solution to all our marketing problems. Your perspectives clarified things and reassured me: new media certainly have a role to play, and plenty of opportunity to move both branding and sales efforts forward to new frontiers. But they are only part of mix... and at present, a fairly small part of the mix, at that. Now - do you think we'll ever be able to move the discussion up to the next level? As important as branding, strategy, media and messages are, they all must be rooted, staked and nurtured in an understanding of the person who buys and uses the product. It seems like a long time since I've seen a real consumer insight in the marketing press. Survey results? Sure. Segmentations by demographics, psychographics, behaviors and brainscans? Sure. But real research about how the brand, product or service intersects with her reality? Not so much. I miss American Demographics! I miss in-depth studies and insightful analysis - longer than a single page news flash, shorter than a book. I miss professional marketing, where being smart is at least as important as being creative. You and your fellow posters' command and understanding of marketing have helped me get a new grasp of how it all fits together. In particular - your point about social media fitting better in the middle than at the beginning or end of the persuasion process? A terrific insight, and as much as I've tried to read on the topic - I've never seen it before! Your commenters' observations on the relativity of its potential for mega-brands vs brands toward the end of the long tail? Makes all the sense in the world! My thanks to you all for the signposts pointing out of the "new media" wilderness!

  • by software Wed Dec 17, 2008 via blog

    Earn $1000 per day working from the comforts of your home! Save gas, time, and money. Start the new year off with a bang!

  • by Lowell Dobyns Fri Feb 26, 2010 via blog

    Probably very close.

  • by Lowell Dobyns Fri Mar 12, 2010 via blog


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