Hashtags: The future of consumer engagement in advertising

Superbowl 45 broke records. Record breaking 111.3 million viewers. Record 10,000 tweets per second in the final 3 minutes of the game. Most-watched halftime show ever by 114 million viewers. Did Superbowl 45 generate a new trend for advertisements too?

Social media is prevalent. It’s no secret. One of the keys to good advertisements is the incorporation of a call to action, either through a link to a website, a deal, or a  link to social media. As I’ve discussed before with the #McDStories and #BeBold promoted hashtag failures by McDonalds and RIM respectively, company-generated social media campaigns are hard to manage. It didn’t seem to stop companies from taking the plunge within their ads during the Superbowl.

Last year, Audi  incorporated a hashtag into their advertisement for the first time, setting a trend for this year’s ads. Last year, it was an ad promoting a departure from old-school luxury trying to rejuvenate their brand image, using the hashtag #ProgressIs. The hashtag was small and understated, compared to the blatant and bold promotion of their hashtag this year. Generating considerable buzz, many experts considered it the campaign of the week!

Audi: #SoLongVampires

Bud Light: #makeitplatinum

H&M David Beckham Underwear: #beckhamforhm

Jack in the Box: #marrybacon

Hulu Plus: #mushymush

General Electric: #WhatWorks

Best Buy: #betterway

You would have thought they would take the hint from McDonalds and RIM #epicfail-ing at trying to shape social media interaction. With a record-breaking amount of Tweeting going on during the Superbowl, it comes as no surprise that even these giant corporations lost some control of the message.

Personally, I thought it was an interesting way of generating discussion on social media. Given my feelings about McDonalds and RIM’s misguided efforts, I had a good internal laugh. In fact, I helped mismanage these hashtags, using them to discuss what I didn’t like about the advertisements of a lot of these companies, including Audi and H&M David Beckham Underwear. However, I also played into their intended purpose for companies like General Electric.

Interestingly, I found that I remembered the hashtags in some instances and not the company to which they referred. For example, even as I was writing this blog post I linked “#makeitplatinum” with Molson and not Bud Light. More evidence that perhaps these company-generated hashtags are not necessarily achieving the desired goals. Also, ads like Clint Eastwood’s Halftime in America generated significant buzz with consumers generating #halftimeinamerica on their own. This goes to show that a good ad can have the desired effect without the company generating it themselves.

TopsyLabs Sentiment Analysis

Overall, statistics suggest these companies that directly engaged consumers with their social media received greater presence in online discussions. I’m interested to see if this trend will continue beyond the Superbowl. I plan to watch and ultimately analyze the response to these hashtags, results that will be presented in the coming weeks.

With the ongoing increase in social media use, a call to action directing consumers to corporate accounts will undoubtedly increase engagement. I believe that such direct calls to action are valuable, but am interested to see how companies manage the potential misuse of things like hashtags. In my last posting, I proposed some methods of controlling discussion in an effort to mitigate negativity and preventing evolution into bashtags; is this enough?

So today I leave you with some questions: Do you engage with company-generated hashtags? If so, is it done in the way they intend or do you turn it into a bashtag?

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Superbowl 45 Ads

Sex sells. Or so we’ve seen in ads for as long as I can remember. This year, however, we learned something new. Humour sells better, at least in this context for this demographic. Pepsi and Elton John got Superbowl 45 off to a bang with a drag, Lady Gaga-esque version of Game of Thrones. The parody had us all laughing and excited to see what else would be thrown our way during the Superbowl; we were disappointed.

The Mind-blowing

Imported from Detroit. Since Eminem’s spin at the wheel of last years Imported from Detroit ad, I’ve been a big fan. This year, Clint Eastwood assumed the lead in Chrysler’s Its Halftime America ad. His gruff demeanour and distinct voice fit the bill perfectly. It was the only ad that leveraged a somewhat emotional appeal that I found hard to look away from.

The Good

The Chevy Sonic Stunt Anthem ad, depicting the new Sonic model in a multitude of “first time experiences” from bungee jumping to sky diving was an undeniable hit among my Superbowl crew. Witty. Intriguing. Jaw dropping. Brilliantly done. Chevy actually produced a number of our favourite ads during this years Superbowl, including the

Adrianna Lima. Is there a human being alive who doesn’t acknowledge this lingerie model as being one of the world’s most beautiful women? Her role in the Kia A Dream Car – For Real Life ad wasn’t actually what made it click; the overall concept and parody on the stereotypical “Once upon a time” fairy tale was refreshing and well executed.

Other honourable mentions include the consumer-generated Doritos chip-stealing baby ad,  E-Trade’s Fatherhood talking baby ad (careful ETrade, you weren’t the only ones using babies this year), and the Skechers racing dog ad.

The Meh

I enjoy a topless David Beckham as much as the next person, but the H&M David Beckham underwear ad was actually kind of boring. I know, I know – sacrilegious to ever refer to a barely-dressed Beckham, but it’s true. If they’re going to feature someone this delightful, at least make it intriguing! I definitely expected something more inspired from H&M.

Coca Cola’s Polar Bears are officially played out. Although I appreciate the clear link to football, the ads just didn’t click for me. They were borderline boring, and there were just too many of them. “Catch” was my favourite of the Coca Cola Polar Bear ads this year. Pepsi took the trophy in this year’s Superbowl Coke Battle.

Vampires. Really? We aren’t past this yet? The Twilight fad is arguably ebbing, but apparently Audi didn’t get the memo. Although the concept of the Audi Vampire Party ad itself was pretty funny and a witty way to demonstrate their product differentiation (great headlights), as soon as we saw vampire teeth popping out my whole crew gave one unanimous groan.

The Cringe-Worthy

GoDaddy.com produced truly cringe-worthy ads this year …. again. Sexist. Played out. Uninspired. GoDaddy.com succeeded in being borderline offensive this year. Congrats! Blatant sexuality doesn’t seem to have resonated even with the men in my Superbowl crew; it simply succeeded in being crude. I’m embarrassed to have purchased my domain from and host my website, www.briannablaney.com, with GoDaddy.com. Clearly, I’m not a customer they want – not with ads like this.

Adrianna Lima was part of a hit and a miss. Her ad for Teleflora just didn’t make sense. The ad relied too much on sex appeal and didn’t have a clear or coherent message. I was intrigued at the beginning, but by the end I was just confused – and I know I wasn’t the only one.

By the end of the evening, even the most optimistic of us were questioning whether the era of mind-blowing Superbowl ads had finally come to an end. I found the majority of ads lukewarm with few hitting the mark, qualifying for the Hot Pepper factor. What was your favourite ad this year?