Using Celebrities To Drive Word-Of-Mouth Is Waste Of Money, Says New Report

Distribution just as important as content, says research into advertising at tentpole events; also explains how Microsoft could have won the Super Bowl and that 93% of viewers didn’t realize Bob Dylan’s spot was for Chrysler. 

Advertisers who use celebrities to drive shares of their videos are wasting their marketing budgets, according to a new report launched today by marketing technology platform Unruly. The Science of Sharing 2014 – which looks at commercials from this year’s Super Bowl to see why some performed well online and others missed the mark – found very few viewers cited the famous faces on show as a key reason why they would share the ads with their social networks.

The stars were certainly out for Super Bowl 2014, with Bob Dylan, Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, The Muppets,  U2, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cast of 90s sitcom Full House among the many celebrities used to front multi-million dollar ad campaigns.

However, despite so many celebrities on show, online shares of ads that aired during the 2014 Super Bowl decreased by almost a third from the previous year – the first time shares of Super Bowl ads have decreased year-on-year. Meanwhile, none of the top 3 most shared ads from Super Bowl 2014 featured celebrities.

The report – released a month before the World Cup in Brazil kicks off and as Super Bowl sponsors start planning for next year’s event – also shows how Microsoft rather than Budweiser could have walked away with the Super Bowl crown. It also highlights how poor branding meant 93% of people who saw Bob Dylan’s Super Bowl didn’t realize it was for Chrysler, while 4% thought it was an ad for rival Ford. Key insights include:

  • Celebrities alone do not drive online ad sharing. Very few viewers cited celebrities as a key driver of why they would share an ad. This explains why none of the top three ads from this year’s Super Bowl featured celebrities. However, this is not just restricted to the Big Game. Despite brands using celebrities for many of their ads, only 13% of the most shared ads of all time (top 100) feature stars (source: Unruly Viral Video Chart);
  • 93% of people who watched Bob Dylan’s Super Bowl ad did not realize it was for Chrysler. 12% of viewers thought it was an ad promoting the campaign to revitalize Detroit, 3% thought it was to promote America while some 4% thought it was a spot for rival Ford. There’s no relationship between how much sharing across the social web a video achieves and the level of branding used. Nor does overt branding make a video less emotionally impactful;
  • Microsoft missed out. With almost 2 million shares, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” commercial, launched on January 29, was the runaway winner of Super Bowl 2014. Yet, when we tested Microsoft’s ad “Empowering” using the Unruly ShareRanktm algorithm, we found it was as intrinsically shareable as the Budweiser ad.  The Microsoft ad, which was launched on the day of the Super Bowl (February 2), actually achieved just over 80,000 shares;
  • The most shareable ads in this study evoked intense psychological responses among viewers. The most shared ad this year used warmth and happiness as its key emotional triggers (and stayed away from humor). The ads in the 2014 Super Bowl in general provoked less intense psychological responses than the previous Super Bowl, one of the key reasons that sharing was down year-over-year.

Dr Karen Nelson-Field, of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science, author of Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, who has also carried out a separate study into how celebrities affect the shareability of an ad said: “Fame is not all it’s cracked up to be. Our research shows that simply putting a famous celebrity in a video will not drive sharing alone.” Unruly US President Richard Kosinski said: “Brands should save the celebrities for the half-time show.

“It wasn’t famous faces which had people sharing at this year’s Super Bowl, it was a cute puppy, a caring soldier and a multi-cultural ad from Coca-Cola that stole the show.” The report – the second white paper released by Unruly to help advertisers maximize their online presence and drive advocacy and ROI during tentpole events such as the World Cup, Olympics and the Super Bowl – also shows that having the right content is only half the battle.

Kosinski added: “Savvy marketers know that strong content is not enough to drive millions of shares, having the right paid online media distribution plan in place is just as important. “For brands, it’s no longer just about their TV ads being watched on Super Bowl Sunday. With more than 24 million shares tracked every 24 hours, the real opportunity for marketers is to connect their paid TV sponsorship with their paid media online, where their ads can be watched and shared before, during and way after the Big Game.”

Methodology The report was compiled using Unruly ShareRank™, a proprietary algorithm which is trained using 430 billion video views and more than 100,000 data points to predict the social impact of brand video content. A representative sample of highly shared, average shared and lowly shared Super Bowl 2014 ads were used to provide a level playing field of campaigns launched around the same time and aired on the same day. Click here to download the full report.

UNRULY, UNRULY SHARERANK and logos and associated marks are trademarks of Unruly Group. Other marks are owned by their respective owners.

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About Unruly

Marketing technology company Unruly is the leading global platform for social video marketing and works with top brands and their agencies to get their videos watched, tracked and shared across the Open Web. Our programmatic video platform reaches and engages the half of the global Internet population who are watching and sharing videos outside of YouTube. Our end-to-end solution cracks the code on social video sharing. Advertisers can algorithmically predict earned media with Unruly ShareRanktm.

They can engage 1.17 billion people across the Open Web with Unruly Activatetm (comScore Feb 2014), the biggest and most sophisticated social video distribution platform. And prove ROI with Unruly Analytics, a cloud-based dashboard providing real-time competitive benchmarks across 6 billion customizable data points. The product set is powered by the Unruly Viral Video Chart, a unique data set covering 430 billion video views and tracking 24 million shares per day.

Engaging audiences across the full range of mobile, tablet and second screen devices, Unruly Activate has delivered, tracked and audited 4.27 billion video views across 3,600+ social video campaigns for over 650 brands, including Volkswagen, Dove, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, Microsoft, Warner Bros and adidas. We’ve worked with 65% of Ad Age Global 100 brands and our mission is to deliver the most awesome social video advertising campaigns on the planet. Founded in 2006, Unruly has 12 offices and employs 150 people globally.

In 2012, Unruly secured a $25 million Series A investment led by Amadeus, Van den Ende & Deitmers and Business Growth Fund. The company has won 26 awards, including ‘Best Content Distribution Platform’ at the Braves Awards; ‘Digital Innovator of the Year’ at the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100; ‘International Management Team of the Year’ at the BVCA Awards and #14 on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 EMEA. Unruly has been selected by Tech City as a Future Fifty Company. To find out more, visit www.unrulymedia.com.