With the cost of Super Bowl advertising more expensive than ever, companies are making sure they get their money's worth.
The average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement is $3.5 million this year, but companies are hoping brand loyalty and live discussions via social networking sites will continue long after the spots air, experts said.
Advertising during this year's Super Bowl will be catering to those who regularly use tablet computers, smartphones and computers while simultaneously watching the game, said Vince Buscemi, the Director of Digital Communications and Social Networking for McDaniel College in Westminster.
Ten years ago, most Super Bowl advertisements featured a website URL at the end, Buscemi said. This year, he expects most advertisements to include a Twitter feed or a hash tag, which is used to focus conversations on the social networking site.
"I think every single commercial is going to have a team of social media strategists following the conversation in real time," he said, "and the ones that are going to do it really well are the ones that will respond quickly in real time."
Thus, companies have already started trying to attract potential customers through their Super Bowl advertising.
Pizza chain Papa John's has already promoted a Coin Toss Experience in which papa johns.com visitors who sign up for a customer reward program can win free pizza and soda by guessing the pregame coin toss. Links to the company's Facebook and Twitter feeds are located prominently on the promotion's website.
Frito-Lay, the maker of Doritos, is encouraging fans to vote for their favorite user-submitted commercials at crashthesuperbowl.com with links to Facebook and Twitter on the site.
Coca-Cola is bringing back its polar bear characters for this year's Super Bowl. The characters will be part of a Polar Bowl party and will be live chatting with fans during the game. As of Wednesday, more than 16,000 fans had already signed up.
Younger generations in particular are comfortable having real-time conversations on Facebook and Twitter, said Christine Greenhow, who served as an associate professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, before leaving for a similar position at Michigan State earlier this month.
"Humans have a fundamental need to connect, and we are social beings," she said, "We also have a need for self-recognition, a need for other people to hear what we have to say."
For high school and college students, those discussions are increasingly done via the Internet, rather than through the phone or even email, she said.
Buscemi said many students at McDaniel will be watching the game with one eye on the television and another on their smartphone, tablet or laptop. That way, they can have a live discussion with virtually anyone via Facebook and Twitter.
More adults are turning to social networking as well, said Todd Marks, the CEO of Baltimore-based Mindgrub Technologies.
After watching an Old Spice commercial on television that made him laugh in the summer of 2010, Marks checked the online video site YouTube and found more entertainment.
The commercials featuring a shirtless male actor portraying a part-human, part-horse, starred in a series of online-only videos that popped up almost as soon as messages clamoring for them appeared on Twitter, including one from actress Demi Moore's Twitter feed.
Amused by it all, Marks purchased Old Spice the next time he was at the grocery store in need of deodorant.
He said that experience shows how influential effective advertising through social networking can be.
"It's highly effective," he said. "It is a low-cost, high-return way of making a connection."