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Super Bowl Ad Stories: How to Measure Ad Success in the Digital Age

"The dialogue around Super Bowl ads has changed—it literally used to happen at the water cooler, and now, the minute an amazing ad hits, the Twitter world goes crazy," says Tor Myhren, chief creative officer of Grey New York. "I personally believe the YouTube view count is the single most important factor in judging the success of a Super Bowl ad."

Myhren, the man behind the eTrade baby ads and a slew of other hits, has paid attention to this digital transition for years, and has realized that a commercial's success during the Super Bowl is as important as its success afterward in social media. And Myhren isn't the only the who's come to this conclusion.

"It used to be that you'd watch the Super Bowl spots played on TV and in the news right after," says Jill Beraud, chief marketing officer of PepsiCo, which monitors chatter on Facebook and Twitter to measure an ad's success. "Now, the longevity of these Super Bowl spots is endless between YouTube and all the digital tools that are available."

Jason Peterson, chief creative officer at Euro RSCG's Chicago office, believes a Super Bowl hit is more than just YouTube views or Twitter tweets. The most successful ads, he says, will not just be watched again online, but be reimagined. In other words, they'll not only go viral—they'll become Internet memes.

"I think YouTube is obviously a big metric—if you see a cultural hit, you're going to see it first reflected online on YouTube," he says. "The next level is: How many parodies are you getting? How many people are getting off their asses, getting video cameras, and actually interacting with the work you put out there? Parodies, to me, are the biggest gauge of whether an advertisement is relevant with the market."

That's not to say traditional measurements aren't still important to a Super Bowl ads' success. After hits on YouTube, mentions on Facebook and Twitter, and write-ups in the blogosphere, ad agencies still closely follow metrics in the non-digital world.

"There is one thing that everyone looks at the day after the Super Bowl, and that is the USA Today ad meter. If you do well on that, you get picked up by every news outlet in America, " says Ann Mukherjee, chief marketing officer for Frito-Lay. "But I'll tell you, that has to go in conjunction with the digital world, because that's the new water cooler."

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  • Thom Mitchell

    Becoming a meme is all well and good, but what struck me most about last night's ads was how incredibly ordinary they were. The few ads that came up with something memorable and original very clearly stood out compared to their special effects laden peers. VW's spots were clearly successful in cutting through the clutter of lame beer jokes and computer animation. Only time will tell if those spots lead to increased sales. Here's my full breakdown of the Superbowl commercials.

    Thom Mitchell

  • Jim Lenahan

    hmmm . . . it seems to me that increased sales would be an interesting metric.

  • Charles Bess

    Alan I have to agree with you. Isn't selling products the purpose of advertising. I don't see how someone making a parody of an add translates into more sales. It might, but the impact needs to be verified and that's what measurement is all about.

  • Alan Earnshaw

    Call me old-fashioned, but I still think the best measure of ad success is changed consumer buying behavior.