The Grammys were a week ago, but Arby's brilliant Twitter coup is still being lauded as this year's event's "Oreo moment." Marketers gearing for the Super Bowl were taking cues from the likes of these social media vanguards as they primed themselves to squeeze every last bit of value out their event-day marketing budgets. Other non-sponsors were trying to leverage creativity and humor in social media to steal some of the spotlight; JCPenney might have been the winner this year.

But were they leaving any marketing value on the table?

Advertisers lined up to pay a staggering $4 million for a 30-second TV spot, and game-day war rooms were staffed with copywriters, designers, lawyers and social media strategists to get as much attention from armchair quarterbacks volleying Tweets back and forth. NFL and others tested location-based mobile promotions. Digital media was bought and thematic ad creatives were ready to start serving on Sunday.

OK, wait...that last bit there. What?

Big-budget TV commercials require significant production lead time (and even they are not without risk). But digital ads? Why are war rooms assembled to engage in social media, but not tasked with conveying the same sort of immediate messaging in paid media? After all, not everyone with a phone or tablet in their laps is on Twitter. Many are deeply engaged in the excitement of the game elsewhere online.

Did football fans really take their game-day chatter beyond Twitter? We can look at traffic figures to see what kind of spike the Super Bowl engendered on popular sports discussion sites:

1,000s of uniques. Source: Quantcast.

And if you think the combination of weather, poor performance by one of the teams, or whatever else was to blame for driving fans to other sites this year, it seems last year's traffic figures were strikingly similar:

1,000s of uniques. Source: Quantcast.

It's worth highlighting a few things here:

  • Not everyone with one hand on their second screen (whether it's their phone, tablet, or laptop) and the other in a bowl of chips is on Twitter alone. Many are reading play-by-play commentary, live blogs, and participating in online discussions on sites and other platforms.
  • The same teams working on developing bite-sized creatives and messages with social media legs could also be broadcasting these same creatives and messages into their paid media, multiplying the reach of messages that resonate with avid home spectators.
  • Media plans and technology choices that don't allow game-day marketers to quickly update creative once an opportunity presents itself are woefully inadequate in 2014.
  • Preprogrammed ads running during the game aren't going to convey the immediate thrill of the game as well as those capturing in-the-moment buzz and chatter.
  • As advertisers have belated understood the impact of lining up their ducks in a row in order to capitalize on high-profile events, they should follow through and see how much further they can take real-time marketing genius into paid media, the only channel that is practically limitless in scale.

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