Friday, February 11, 2011

SuperBowl Advertising: Black Eyed Peas With Salesforce’s Chatter versus Darth Vader

Every SuperBowl becomes a crucible for advertising.  If a company is willing to pay ~$3 million for a 30 second spot and expose itself to the largest possible audience, it better be confident in its strategy, message, creative and the objective it hopes to achieve. 

I thought a few ads were excellent.  My favorites were little Darth Vader using the force to start the Volkswagen and Chrysler’s hard-nosed view of Detroit.  However, for me the ad that stood out the most was from for its Chatter product.  It stood out because:  
  •  A business to business (B2B) company,, used the ultimate pop culture pitchmen, the Black Eyed Peas.  This is pretty uncommon in B2B.  Accenture did it with Tiger Woods, a few other companies have done it.  But most don’t make the pitchmen as integrated into the product and usually just trade off the pitchmen’s persona.     
  • was launching a product, Chatter, that is a fundamental new approach to business, breaking down the work/business silo.  Whether or not Chatter or any of the other products deliver on the promise, this is quite a fundamental shift.  Usually, companies control their internal collaboration and conversation.  In this case, Chatter is offering itself as a platform, outside of the company, to enable dialogue.  
  • The product is based on the concept of the cloud that about 90% of the audience probably does not need to understand.  Microsoft has taken some admirable swipes at marketing the cloud .… touching up photos and watching television shows while stuck in the airport.  Making the cloud an actual player in the ads is more interesting.  Anyone 35 and younger probably views the cloud as standard operating procedure so I applaud the effort to not market the cloud so much as a concept and instead make it a supporting player in the ad.  
The Chatter commercials seem to have been universally panned.  However, I think it might actually have been one of the few that achieved its business objectives.  We will never know what Marc Benioff and team wrote down in their marketing plans, but here is my take: 
  • Linkage to clear call to action:   Ads usually don’t drive the sale, but should be a chain in the sales process.  In this case, I assume a large number of people actually visited the Chatter site.  On the site, there was a clear next step … enter your business email and start engaging in your company’s conversation.   I thought this was brilliant.  Not a call to action for another white paper.  Not some inane Facebook “like” request.  This was something you could fundamentally have interest in. 
  •  Broad awareness achieved:  SalesForce, unlike many other Enterprise software companies, needs the individual employee to be an advocate.  I’m not sure of the audience size for the SuperBowl, but aided awareness for SalesForce has likely shot through the roof.  
  •   Buzz created:  In today’s tech conversation everyone is trying to out-innovate everyone else.  Although arguably much of the buzz has been negative, it’s still buzz, people are talking, etc.  There is also plenty of places to take SalesForce’s approach  into popular culture given how ubiquitous the Black Eyed Peas are.  
Overall, I’m not sure how SalesForce justified its ROI on this advertising spend,  but of all the advertisements, I think this is one that might have made the most business sense.  Sure, every ad could be improved and this one is no exception; perhaps a different creative approach would have made this more enjoyable, but I'm not sure it would have made it have more impact.  As I wrote, my favorite ad was Darth Vader with the Volkswagen …  but enjoyment and impact aren’t correlated.  I’m not going to buy a Volkswagen, but I might check out the Chatter site.