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Super Bowl Ads Face Off on Twitter in Online Brand Battle

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A stolen prom kiss and speeding showgirls competed against an unexpected blackout and a clever Oreo post for online fans as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

The stakes were high for the championship football game’s advertising sponsors, who spent as much as $133,333 a second for a half-minute of airtime yesterday, a record marketers say was justified by the expected repeat viewings and buzz on the Web.

While no one could have predicted a 35-minute midgame power failure, advertisers used skills honed in the social-media era to respond immediately. Twitter Inc. said marketers started bidding on “power outage” as a search term minutes after the lights went out. Mondelez International Inc.’s digital ad agency, 360i, posted a picture of an Oreo cookie on Twitter with the tagline “You can still dunk in the dark,” moving from concept to posting in five minutes.

“They saw a real-time opportunity with the power outage and jumped it, doing so in a social voice true to the Oreo brand,” Laurie Guzzinati, a Mondelez spokeswoman in East Hanover, New Jersey, wrote in an e-mail. The snackmaker separated from the former Kraft Foods Inc. in October.

The Oreo Twitter post was recirculated more than 13,100 times. Earlier in the CBS Corp. broadcast, Mondelez ran a commercial asking viewers to decide which part of an Oreo is best, the cookie or the creme filling.

YouTube Ads

Web surfers also went to Google Inc.’s YouTube, a video- sharing site, to find commercials. Candy-maker Mars Inc.’s M&M’s had the most searched-for commercial, followed by automaker Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz, Google said in an e-mailed statement. At No. 3 was Walt Disney Co.’s “Oz Great and Powerful,” a movie. Two automakers, Ford Motor Co.’s Lincoln and Volkswagen AG’s Audi, rounded out the top five.

The “power outage” term proved to be a draw. Twitter advertisers can bid to locate so-called sponsored tweets near popular search terms. The 140-character messages appear inside the streams of Twitter users looking for information on the Super Bowl or the blackout.

On Google, searches related to the power outage rose during the game, reaching No. 8 among most queried terms during the game. Overall, the top trending search during the game was M&M’s, which showed a commercial early in the broadcast. Performer Beyonce, who provided halftime entertainment, was No. 2 while the Baltimore Ravens were No. 3 and the San Francisco 49ers were No. 4. While the 49ers didn’t win, it was the team’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who rounded out the top five.

Advertising Draw

“In the last three to four years, brands have been gearing up on the social media front ahead of the game,” Derek D. Rucker, marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said in an interview. “But now more so than ever we’re seeing them take advantage of it during the game.”

On Facebook Inc.’s website, comments mentioning “Dodge” jumped 151,000 percent after the airing of the advertisement for Chrysler Group LLC’s Dodge Ram brand, while the count for Yum! Brands Inc.’s “Taco Bell” surged 140,000 percent after its commercial, the social-network operator said in a statement. Mentions of Procter & Gamble Co.’s Tide brand increased by 132,000 percent after its advertising spot.

BlackBerry, Oprah

The percentage gains were measured using the number of comments mentioning the brands made at the peak of each advertisement compared with the average made prior to the event.

The game, which Baltimore won 34-31 at the Superdome in New Orleans, drew marketers such Coca-Cola Co. and Volkswagen AG as well as lesser-known brands including Wonderful Pistachios and Gildan Activewear. BlackBerry, struggling to rehabilitate its faltering brand, advertised for the first time in the Super Bowl, promoting the Z10 smartphone ahead of its U.S. release in March.

Internet companies took on the role of referee, measuring viewers’ votes, “likes” on Facebook, searches and sentiments in an attempt to declare a winner among the Super Bowl sponsors.

In one surprise move, Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA, aired a two-minute spot immediately after the halftime show narrated by talk show host Oprah Winfrey, thanking U.S. military personnel and families for their devotion. The commercial, called “Whole Again” and sponsored by the Jeep brand, recalled last year’s surprise appearance by director and actor Clint Eastwood in a Chrysler advertisement.

Streaming Ads

In a post on Twitter, Winfrey said she “loved lending my voice to America’s team -- our troops.” The Chrysler spot was one of the last to air before the power failure.

Many advertisers started streaming their Super Bowl spots ahead of the game to draw a bigger audience, both online and on television. Ads released before the game typically generate more than 9.1 million online views on average, compared with 1.3 million for those appearing on the Web the day of the game, according to Lucas Watson, vice president of advertising at YouTube.

“You’re more likely to remember the brand on the Super Bowl day if you saw the ad beforehand,” he said in an interview last week.

Online Contests

Some advertisers crafted contests ahead of the game to draw in more viewers. Carmaker Audi, owned by Volkswagen, created three different endings to an ad featuring a male prom partier who heads to the dance alone. Viewers voted for the ending where he surprised the prom queen with a welcome kiss and drew a black eye from her official date.

Coca-Cola, one of the biggest Super Bowl sponsors, also held an online poll on an ending to a commercial. Unlike Audi, its voting was designed to continue through the game itself. The ad showed three groups -- cowboys, showgirls and “badlanders” -- racing across a desert to reach a bottle of Coke.

PepsiCo Inc., also a perennial Super Bowl advertiser, held an online competition to see which fan-made commercial for Doritos should air during the game. The two that aired were “Goat for Sale,” about a man who comes to regret buying a goat that shares his insatiable appetite for the snack chip, and “Fashionista Daddy,” about a father who indulges his daughter’s desire for a dress-up party along with his buddies.

Ad Rates

Companies paid CBS an average of $3.75 million for 30- second Super Bowl spots, up 7.1 percent from a year earlier, the most expensive ad rate in U.S. media, according to WPP Plc’s Kantar Media, an industry research firm. Some sponsors paid more than $4 million, CBS Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves said in an interview.

Rates for Super Bowl spots have climbed about 60 percent over the past decade, showing how much marketers value the chance to reach the largest TV audience. Last year’s game had 78 commercials and produced ad sales of $262.5 million, according to Kantar Media.

Super Bowl sponsors get a 20 percent increase in traffic on their websites on the day of the game, and the audience remains higher than average the following week, according to an analysis from Adobe Systems Inc.

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