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Jan. 13 2010 - 3:51 pm | 1,480 views | 2 recommendations | 5 comments

2010 is proving to be the year big brands shift spending to social media

When does a trend become mainstream? In the world of advertising and marketing there is a persistent undercurrent of one-ups-manshippping. A few weeks back Pepsi boldly proclaimed that they wouldn’t be buying a Superbowl ad and would be investing in social media driven campaigns.

This year for the first time in 23 years, Pepsi will not have ads in the Super Bowl telecast. No Cindy Crawford, Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake. Pepsi has chosen to give away over $20 million in a social media play it is calling The Pepsi Refresh Project, debuting in 2010. In Super Bowl ads from 1999 to 2009, Pepsi spent over $142 million to encourage consumers to drink the Pepsi brand. Pepsi’s decision to pull its advertising from the Super Bowl telecast and concentrate on its Social Media strategy to try and create a movement will be the largest and most visible showdown between broadcast media and the Internet to date. Pepsi represents one of the stalwarts, not just of the Super Bowl advertiser lineup, but of broadcast TV in general.

First mover advantage? Not anymore.

As much as the life of a tweet is less than 24 hours, first mover advantage in marketing is getting shorter and shorter. Just today a story was published on New Media Age citing Coke and Unilever will be shifting their digital microsite strategy to social communities like Facebook & YouTube.

Prinz Pinakatt, the Coca-Cola Company’s interactive marketing manager for Europe, said, “In some cases some of our campaigns won’t need a coke.com-hosted site. In most cases these will still exist as it’s the most obvious destination for a consumer, but it might only be a page linking to YouTube encouraging people to join the community there. “We would like to place our activities and brands where people are, rather than dragging them to our platform,” Pinakatt added.

Cheryl Calverley, Unilever UK’s senior global manager for Axe Skin, said, “You’ll see fewer brands creating a site for one campaign and then throwing it away. Certainly we won’t do that at Unilever any more.

Big brands feel the pain of creating a site for a campaign, but what about B2B and medium sized businesses?

Launching a microsite is essentially starting over. Starting over is most-often painful for everyone involved. At Webtrends we did this ourselves and wrote about our experience and learnings:

Not only did we have to design and develop a new site from scratch, but we also had to build an audience for the site. In addition to the start up effort, now we had another property that needed ongoing content. While our corporate blog is a great vehicle for the generation of interest in our company we don’t see a greater value than our corporate blog or webtrends.com.

Being focused on digital measurement we had been observing macro trends and predicting a shift from traditional microsites to social microsites. Pepsi, Coke and Unilever are proof that this microsite evolution is a shift in the way marketers look at their marketing mix.

Ultimately, the pace of evolution will likely be governed by marketers’ ability to capture the metrics associated with these new social momentum models. In order for Social Microsites to overtake their conversion-centric ancestors, they will have to be more effective at capturing direct marketing budgets… which means proving ROI. Certainly an interesting opportunity – and challenge – for those focused on measuring online marketing effectiveness today.

What’s this all leading to?

Investments in traditional digital media (if that isn’t an oxy-moron) is evolving at a rapid pace. Mega brands are now shifting their serious dollars toward social media. The trend of investing in social media is taking root in marketing mixes for the largest brands around the world and displacing traditional digital media, which is inline with Forrester’s report on 50% of marketers planning to increase their spend in social media. And where is that money coming from? They are taking the budgets away from broadcasting and microsites. The multi-million dollar allocations of Coke and Pepsi are the largest spends in social media to date and will propel the space into mainstream. If you are a marketer here is the brass tax:

  • An increased focus on measuring social media, it must be a part of your mix.
  • You should demand benchmarks like average rate of return for dollars spent (I demand a 5X return).
  • Plan for less money spent on web development and media and more money spent on content and engagement management.
  • You will not be alone: A stampede of additional brands will be following suit.
  • Be prepared for increased regulatory pressure for social media, like the FTC rulings on disclosure.
  • Media prices will increase on social sites, which increases the cost of social media advertising. That will help push out scammy ads that are dependent on low prices further legitimizing the ad channel.


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Webtrends is a customer intelligence company that turns data into understanding. Founders of the web analytics industry in 1993, we crunch the numbers our customers care about — on their web sites, blogs, SEM campaigns, you name it — to uncover business trends and competitive advantage. Our philosophy of Open Exchange guides the development of our technology and the way we run our business. We believe in the free flow of data among systems, transparency with our customers and collective problem solving with our partners. We succeed when our customers and partners do first.

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