Pepsi commercials have become as much a part of Super Bowl lore as overblown halftime shows and players thanking the Lord for throwing that game-winning touchdown.
For 23 straight years the popular soda brand showed an advertisement, which is such a long time that John Elway was a young hotshot quarterback playing in his first championship game when a Pepsi Super Bowl commercial first aired.
Citing TNS Intelligence, ESPN reported that Pepsi spent $142.8 million on Super Bowl ads between 1999-2008, second only to popular Super Bowl advertiser Anheuser-Busch.
Pepsi’s about-face has nothing to do with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees; this is about a brand understanding that the future of marketing is on the Internet and spending those dollars accordingly.
In place of its annual Super Bowl ad, Pepsi initiated the Pepsi Refresh Project, which asks the American people to post ideas that will have a "positive impact" in communities around the nation. Pepsi is awarding grants of different sizes, ranging from $5K to $250K.
The project involves people submitting ideas, people voting on these ideas, and then Pepsi making a charitable contribution via the crowdsourcing project. The leading $5K idea at this moment has to do with shipping Girl Scout cookies to soldiers overseas and the top $250K project involves providing healing, hope and possibility to survivors of violence and abuse via the Joyful Heart Foundation.
This idea is pure genius on the part of Pepsi, a company that apparently really gets what it means to advertise in 2010.
First off, the biggest thing you want from a Super Bowl commercial is buzz. I doubt anybody even remembers Coke’s commercial, whereas everybody is talking about this.
According to a recent Nielsen survey, Pepsi received about 21 percent of the online buzz and media coverage around Super Bowl advertising, 10 times as much as Coke.
We also know this because the project has accumulated over 500K Facebook fans and has a Twitter presence on the official Pepsi Twitter account that’s pushing the #PepsiRefresh hashtag.
Plus, instead of just throwing a couple million down the drain, Pepsi is actually doing something to help real-life communities.
That’s not even to say anything about what this means in terms of link building. How many links do you think Coke got from its clever but not exactly earth shattering Simpson’s commercial? By comparison, many people online are talking about "the shock" around Pepsi deciding not to advertise in the big game and doing this instead, and that means links.
From a pure natural link building standpoint, Pepsi is already squeezing much more value out of this campaign than a couple 30-second spots in front of the country ever could yield.
Pepsi clearly gets this new age of marketing, which involves interacting with the people and injecting yourself into the conversation. Throwing in a charitable contribution doesn’t hurt either, and all that for about $10 million less than it usually spends on Super Bowl ads.
Who says you can’t measure a return on investment with social media?
Google joins the Super Bowl party
As Pepsi turned to the power of the Internet, Google ventured into the Super Bowl ad space for the first time, showing "Parisian Love" (embedded below) in the third quarter of Sunday’s game.
The ad may have seemed familiar to you Google fanatics because it has run on YouTube for over three months.
Writing in the official Google blog, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, "We didn’t set out to do a Super Bowl ad, or even a TV ad for search. Our goal was simply to create a series of short online videos about our products and our users, and how they interact. But we liked this video so much, and it’s had such a positive reaction on YouTube, that we decided to share it with a wider audience."
By sharing it with a wider audience, Schmidt means that the ad wasn’t for people like you and me who use Google every day and understand its power; it’s for your grandmother who doesn’t know what a Google is and doesn’t realize the numerous positive benefits of search, Google in particular.
Google already owns the market share for "us," this commercial was all about making an impression with the casual Internet users who don’t yet realize all the things Google can do for them.