Social media unleashes avalanche of viewer interaction

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WHEN last did you sit through an entire TV ad? Aside from the television commercial (TVC) I’ll be describing shortly, I can honestly not recall watching an ad start to finish – unless you count the mandatory five-second ads on YouTube, which precede the content you’re really after.

While TVCs are certainly far from dead in the water, and remain the largest contributor to total advertising revenue, major brands are increasingly seeking ways to counter their lower returns on investment with alternative broadcast means.

According to PwC’s Entertainment and Media Outlook 2015-2019, the rise of internet advertising is rapidly changing the advertising landscape, and “the days of several channels guaranteeing mass audiences are not going to stay for long, as viewership fragments in terms of content, time and place thanks to multiscreen devices and video-on-demand (VOD) services.”

Enter social media: an increasingly busy space where clever, well-timed content stands head and shoulders above the rest.

A case in point is the recent lauded commercial for our social media client, iconic household brand Cerebos. Pulling at the heartstrings and executed to perfection by FCB Durban and Tulips & Chimneys, the animated TVC shows little Mpho yearning to make snow angels despite being slap-bang in the hottest, driest part of South Africa.

It was the first Cerebos TVC in two decades, and began airing on SABC and eTV in mid-August. Clearly the ad pleased the gods, as a cold front swept the country at the same time, bringing snow – much to mythical Mpho’s delight.

Now this is where the power of social media marketing is at its most evident. Great content coupled with just the right timing and message has the power to galvanise passive social media users into becoming vocal brand ambassadors – a gold standard for brands.

The snow began falling on a Friday. That evening, as reports of snow hit the news, Good News Lab was able to consult with the client on a social campaign which would make the most of the cold snap.

No bureaucratic red tape or waiting to find the ideal time slot to air the TVC. With a modest ad-spend (very modest compared to print and broadcast advertising rates), some clever content to invigorate audience engagement, and a chilly South African social media audience in waiting, the social campaign was flighted on Facebook and Instagram within a couple of hours.

Over three days an audience of 600,000 was reached. Importantly, though, the audience actively engaged with the brand. Some 200,000 views of the ad were thanks solely to it being shared by the public in their own social media streams – endorsement which brands simply cannot buy.

Furthermore, others took to posting their snow pictures and tagging the brand on social media, and in turn Cerebos was able to engage with that audience – an engagement prompted outside the official brand platforms, and proactively initiated by individual members of the public.

And therein lies the gems of new age targeted advertising versus the old-school “throw the net wide and hope for the best” approach. The hyper-audience targeting capabilities of social media campaigns – where brands can be told who engaged with them, where, when and how – makes the thought of airing TVCs solely on traditional broadcast platforms, with no direct means or tracking its success, audience engagement or uptake, simply mind-boggling.

Of course, there is place for both new school and old school marketing in today’s world, as Good News Lab’s traditional and digital teams will attest. But the line between the two is blurring and cross-platforming is becoming the new norm as advertisers seek more effective ad spend.

Digital marketing is currently experiencing a dizzying uptick as South African Internet access rockets – mostly via smartphone devices and thanks to free WiFi hotspots.

Brands that fail to notice this budget-stretching trend do so at their own peril.

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