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Pepsi ditches Superbowl TV slot for social campaigns

4th Jan 2010
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Drinks giant Pepsi is turning its back on its traditional TV spot during the Super Bowl, as it focuses on social marketing. A sign of the times?

PepsiCo is dumping its traditional high profile if expensive TV advertising presence at the US Super Bowl in favour of social marketing and a digital engagement strategy.

The move will see the soft drinks manufacturer plough $20 million into its Refresh Project, which funds local initiatives such as feeding the hungry or helping people to read.

The aim is to launch a website entitled on 13 January to enable consumers to suggest pertinent community initiatives. Users will be able to vote for those they deem most warrant support as of 1 February and will be asked to provide their email addresses to receive email updates on their chosen project’s progress.

As well as creating an email database for marketing purposes, the goal is to create a two-way dialogue with both new and prospective customers to build loyalty.

It will be the first time in 23 years that the National Football League’s championship game will not feature an advert pushing the vendor’s soft drinks, although its Frito Lay crisps will still have a presence.

According to TNS Media Intelligence, which measures advertising expenditure, PepsiCo spent $142.8 million on 10 Super Bowl adverts between 1999 and 2008, making it second in investment terms only to beer maker, Anheuser-Busch. Each advertising spot reportedly costs nearly $3 million.

But the decision to divert some of its spend to social marketing is likely to reflect the growing use by young Americans - PepsiCo’s traditional market - of social networking sites, particularly in a down economy where the focus is on ensuring that marketing dollars are more targeted more effectively.

Forrester's Augie Ray has predicted that Pepsi's decision could have several ramifications for marketers. In particular, Ray emphasises that while it doesn't mean TV is going away, it will be fighting for marketing dollars on an increasingly level playing field with social and interactive tactics.

It could also represent another nail in the coffin of merely likeable advertising. "Super Bowl advertising has become its own kind of sport," Ray writes. "Shortly after the big game, the scoreboard goes up and the winning team does an end zone victory dance [with the agency press releases bragging about the results]. All this hullabaloo implies that ads are entertainment and likability is all that matters, but it is just one element - and hardly the most important - in effective advertising. Pepsi's actions demonstrate a commitment to something deeper than jokey ads."


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