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Salesforce.com scores SuperBowl marketing touchdown

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7th Feb 2011
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The Superbowl is the time of year when media buyers compete to secure the most expensive slots on US network television. Back in 1984, Apple Computer caused a stir when it aired a startling commercial based on George Orwell's novel 1984 to introduce the Macintosh computer to an unsuspecting general public.

Widely regarded as one of the most successful pieces of television advertising – particularly from a technology firm – the commercial is reputed to have catapulted Apple into the mainstream consciousness. Fast forward to 2011 and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff set out to pull off a 1984-style trick as the Cloud Computing firm aired two animated commercials – immediately before and after half time at the SuperBowl in what may be the firm's boldest – and most expensive? - marketing gambit to date as it promotes its new Chatter.com offering.

The animated commercials were developed in association with will.i.am – front man for the Black Eyes Peas, the band that will be performing during the halftime at the SuperBowl. will.i.am wrote and directed the commercial which features the “Baby Peas,” a group of animated characters that we will see again in later campaigns as well as “Chatty, the magical cloud,”, a Salesforce.com creation best known for dancing around on stage at Salesforce.com events. The animated version of Will.I.Am will walk out of the commercial just as the real world version comes on stage to perform.

It was a bold gambit and one that carries a “big numbers” price tag of course – a 30 second slot at the SuperBowl can set you back a cool $3 million a pop. It was also delivered in remarkably short period of time, as Benioff disclosed in his blog: 

"Time was something I did not have. But from the moment will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas and I first talked about collaborating on an advertisement for the biggest Sunday in television, I knew it was something that we had to do...So I called our chief marketing officer Kendall Collins and told him what I wanted to do. “Next year, right?” he asked. Not quite—this year’s game in 90 days, I said. “Impossible,” Kendall told me.  And I knew we had to do it. "

But determination didn't make the challenge any the less: 

"We had only three months to create content, tag lines, music, animation—all with teams who had never met. We had never even done a TV spot before -- let alone the mother of all spots...New challenges require new approaches. And we didn’t want to take the traditional ad agency approach.  In this case, the agency was the artist. We worked with Dipdive, LLC – what will.i.am calls a social media lifestyle agency that has a totally revolutionary approach to content, brands, social media and art. And we decided to manage the entire creative process in Chatter – meshing, on the fly, each person’s distinctive approach to achieve the impossible. Our corporate marketing team, will.i.am and Dipdive  used Chatter to brainstorm and surface the best ideas. We shared documents, scripts, compositions – all in the Cloud." 

The various members of the creative team were scattered around the globe, working collaboratively in the Cloud. 

"Teams were in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Tokyo and the UK. will.i.am approved things from his BlackBerry while in Paris. I did everything the same way I run my company—from my iPad. We were never in the same room, or even on a conference call. There were no email threads, no excuses for not getting documents. (As will.i.am said: “This is 2011, there’s no time for that!”) We cut a process that usually takes eight months down to 90 days."
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