Monthly Archives: February 2012

Super Bowl ads: a social phenomenon

Last time New York Giants met New England Patriots in the Super Bowl was four years back. Though the last two minutes heroics of Eli Manning still led the Giants to win the game, much has changed in the world since then. In the social world, the landscape in 2008 was comparatively smaller. For example,there were about 100 million Facebook users and 30 million tweets a month. Fast forward four years, in 2012 there are more than 800 million users on Facebook, more than 300 million tweets a day and 4 billion videos being streamed on YouTube every day. If nothing else, this completely changed the biggest television advertising day of the year.

For the first time, the brands did more public campaigns to gear up to the Super Bowl than any time before. Whether it was in form of contests to make audience vote for the best of the commercials or post teasers online to what to expect this year at Super Bowl. For example Chevy ran a Super Bowl ad contest. The 40 finalist ad spots were viewed on YouTube more than 35 million times and people voted and discussed them for a month. Doritos on the other hand asked people to make ads and submit in their contest. The prize being the winning entry getting airtime during the bowl. Volkswagen building up on the last year’s Darth Vader success dropped a teaser of their this year’s ad titled the Bark Side. It got about 10 million views before the game day.

The entire phenomenon of Super Bowl advertising is taken to another level this year and in many ways, the $3.5 million that advertisers shelled out for 30 seconds had much more impact this year than ever before. Social media enabled the 30 second spot to be a month-long advertising campaign.

But then there was Chrysler’s Halftime in America. No one saw it before, no one heard about it. So when the voice of Clint Eastwood came at the halftime mark, people paid attention to the ad like the good old times. The social media impact here: the official copy of the ad posted by Chrysler was watched more than 10 million times on YouTube within a week of its airing during the Super Bowl!

The science in art

When I think of art as a topic of conversation, I think of something that can be valued in terms of aesthetic measures like beauty and appeal. It is said beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. If you believe in that then you would also believe that there is very less logic and reasoning behind it. Something that is a great piece of art for me can be very mediocre for you and something that is a masterpiece accordingly to you may really not appeal that much to me. There is nothing that is universally appealing and beautiful.

Art has a lot more value when it is targeted. You cannot be a successful artist if you are not reaching your core audience. That’s where science comes in picture. There is enough data available in this world to develop rich correlations between distinct things and make you reach your target audience. You can end up being much more effective if the only people who notice you are the people who really matter.

This principle is very apparent in the advertising industry. The right advertisement shown to the right audience at the right time is what really adds value. How do you determine that right audience and the right time? Well embracing computation science to figure that out is a great complement to your gut. One great thing about science is it evolves really fast. Something which was determined using a few hundred data points a decade back can now be much more definitive by leveraging tens of thousands of data points. You got to embrace the explosive power of computation combined with the growth in available information. Add to that techniques like machine learning and artificial intelligence and improve your findings with time.

The biggest challenge for an art driven organization in embracing science is the ability to adapt as fast as science evolves. The longer you manage to last in the state of denial in embracing this evolution, the greater is your ability to make your art less compelling and attractive to the world out there. Art and science are great complements to each other. What art brings to science is the same thing that science brings to art. It’s the effectiveness and the value which otherwise goes untapped.