The Five Rules of Social TV… and it’s all thanks to Coke’s Socialbowl

This is the year that the Superbowl is getting all social on itself. With an estimated 60 per cent of its 100 million viewers tuning in via a ‘second screen’, it’s no wonder the main players have woken up to social plug-ins.

The Superbowl has – until now – been the primary platform for blockbusting TV ads. So it’s interesting to see how the big 30-second spot is evolving in the era of social media. Pepsi is tying up with Shazam to let viewers download Melanie Amaro’s (X Factor USA’s winner) performance of Otis Redding’s “Respect”. Audi is looking to use social TV to extend their interaction beyond the commercial break with the hashtag  #SoLongVampires.

And Coca Cola is bringing back modern reincarnations of their trademark polar bears, letting them interact with the great viewing public via Twitter and Facebook.

But in true big game style, who’s scored a touchdown and who leaves empty-handed?

Pepsi’s ‘Respect’ campaign doesn’t feel like it merits much respect. The social aspect comes across as an afterthought. Just imagine the meeting: ‘shit, we need to do something social… let’s do a download!’. Audi fares a bit better. By jumping on the vampire bandwagon, they’re pretty much guaranteed to generate an excitable level of post-game social conversations with #SoLongVampires. But the winner – hands down – has to be Coca Cola who is putting so much faith in their social campaign, they’re only investing in two spots during the early TV breaks.

In fact, they’re placing so much store in their social campaign that they’ve gone to the length of partnering with the tech world (Oscar-winning visual effects house, Framestore, and video game experts, Blitz) to develop brand spanking new technology that allows the CG bears to become interactive… apparently, it’s all groundbreaking stuff if you’re part of that world.

This campaign stands out because it offers genuine added-value. Coca Cola (and its partner agencies) has properly understood the way people consume and interact with the big game. Viewers watch the Superbowl as much for the ads as the game itself. And they have a habit of Facebooking and Tweeting about them. But, ultimately, they’re there for the game. By getting the polar bears to react to the game, they’re becoming part of the experience, rather than interrupting the experience. Moreover, the bears are offering insights into the game and so adding value.

By creating family-friendly interactive polar bears, Coca Cola is connecting their brand with the power of a ‘shared interest’, making their social campaign unmissably big so that liked minded individuals will all end up in the same place. It’s a clever approach that makes Coca Cola part of the event rather than an intrusion or distraction. This won’t necessarily appeal to the hardcore Superbowl fan, but it certainly hits the spot in terms of family fun… and you need something else entertaining for a game that stretches over four hours! Cameo performances by dancing penguins should keep the kids from running riot in another room.

The bears are creating an experience in their own right, generating their own entertainment and value but around a shared interest. By collecting like minded people together, Coca Cola is fuelling more discussion and making people feel they’re in the right place with the right brand. And by kicking-off the social campaign before the actual game, Coca Cola has built an enviable buzz, fan base and conversation that can only grow in anticipation of the game.

When boiled down to its essence, this project’s success will come from creating a clever campaign that manages to communicate brand values and product benefits around a shared interest in an unobtrusive and relevant way. Of course, success will ultimately depend on the quality of its execution during the actual game – the bears simply must live up to the hype. But this is a campaign with such a strong strategy that it provides a blueprint for social TV rules:

  1. The most effective social TV campaigns are built around a genuine shared interest. Make them part of the event rather than an intrusion.
  2. Add value insight into the event… a welcome distraction or an expert/statistical opinion
  3. Be clearly targeted to collect like minded people together, making them feel they’re in the right place with the right brand.
  4. Don’t ‘sponsor’ an event with traditional advertising – create a complementary experience; one that brings its own entertainment and value.
  5. Start early and build support in the lead up to the event itself.