Super Bowl Ads: The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing

Many Super Bowl advertisers relied on crowdsourcing to build momentum in communities. Here are the pros and cons of using crowdsourcing in campaigns.

Twenty percent of the 35 advertisers in this year's Super Bowl incorporated crowdsourcing into their ad campaigns. The Old G in Super Bowl crowdsourcing, Doritos, was back again, and the brand is joined by Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, Lincoln, Audi, and newbie, Dunder Mifflin.

The Super Bowl spots cost an average $3.5 to $4 million each, with some brands placing multiple spots throughout the game. At that price, and in this economy, brands need to get their money's worth. While simply advertising at the Super Bowl brings visibility to more than 111 million viewers, as well as buzz to your brand, extending the buzz for several weeks before and after is the only way to achieve campaign ROI. According to Nielsen, 50 percent of Super Bowl viewers tune in specifically to watch the brands, but evidence that the brands impact sales has been dubious over the years.

As the name implies, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined network of people via an open call. To be effective, the network must be large. Crowdsourcing isn't new, but social media channels like Twitter and YouTube have given it an advertising renaissance. While a business can outsource the final result to the crowd, it's important to remember that crowdsourcing isn't the same as outsourcing. There are still significant resources that must be applied to produce the open call, generate interest, evaluate submissions, and announce winners.

Last year, when Coca-Cola released its Polar Bear spot, they admittedly overlooked the opportunity to extend the campaign's reach via social media. The company has corrected course in 2013, and are going head-to-head with Pepsi. Both beverage brands released crowdsourced content during the game. Pepsi may have the upper hand, because their spot is airing user-submitted photos during the Beyonce half-time show, while Coca-cola is pushing its high concept "Mirage" campaign, which had a more complex arc and required a bigger commitment from audience members to stay engaged.

Before any brand embarks on a crowdsourcing campaign consider the pros and cons:



Extends the value of the investment in the super bowl ad

Increases personal investment in the ad on the part of participants

High social and shareable value

Increase pre-game buzz

Puts your brand in the hands of your customers, who are not clued into your product roadmap or future plans

Losing its novelty. Possibly jumping the shark this year.

Requires additional marketing budget

User submitted content may contain trademarked language or other hazards, rendering great ideas useless.

It's critical to consider the complexity of your brand positioning if you are going to hand your brand message over to the public. Doritos fans simply need to articulate, "Doritos taste good." Will Audi have the same success with a more complex message? Crowdsourcing is most effective for brands with well-established social channels. Brands should not use crowdsourcing to establish a social community; it's best to build momentum within an existing and engaged community.