Pepsi Ditches Super Bowl Ads for Social Networking Campaign

While watching the Super Bowl this upcoming February, some viewers may notice a conspicuous absence: PepsiCo (PEP), which has advertised during the past 23 Super Bowl shows, won't be running any Pepsi commercials, according to The Wall Street Journal. Before you brush this off as a non-event, let me remind you of some of the Pepsi commercials of Super Bowl past. The beverage maker has long paraded a series of A-listers to entertain %%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% us between plays. Puff Daddy (P Diddy, whatever you call him), Jackie Chan, Cindy Crawford (I will never forget that ad), and Ozzy Osbourne.So where will all of those unused Pepsi ad dollars go? According to Frank Cooper, senior vice president of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, the company plans to focus its advertising strategy on a "marketing platform" rather than blitzing us with commercials during a single event. Pepsi says it is launching the "Pepsi Refresh Project," a collaboration between PepsiCo and a non-profit/charitable organization that awards grant money to community projects that are chosen by consumers.

A Virtual World of Advertising Possibilities

This so-called "cause-related marketing" evidently works well, as evidenced by several case studies referenced in this article from onPhilanthropy. According to the article, Avon raised $300 million for breast cancer awareness. Obviously, Pepsi's marketing move isn't completely selfless. By using social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to consumers who might support and vote for a cause, the company is going to tap into a virtual world (literally) of advertising possibilities.

On Facebook, for example, Pepsi can issue invitations to participate in a poll to its followers. When someone votes on a charity choice, a message will get posted on their Facebook page that says they voted for one of Pepsi's cause choices and voila - advertising.

According to a report by Nielsen, Facebook is a virtual treasure trove for advertisers wishing to target 18 to 49-year olds. Twitter's numbers are a little lower - but impressive nonetheless. According to a March 2009 article from Social Media Today, 19% of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have used Twitter or something like it, 20% between ages 25 and 34, and 10% between ages 35 and 44. For advertisers, this is the demographic sweet spot.

Pepsi's migration away from televised Super Bowl ads is a trend we can expect other big companies to follow. There is far more bang for the buck when advertising online then producing and paying for 30 seconds of airtime during one of the most expensive televised events of the year.

It seems like a smart move on Pepsi's part. Yet, it just won't be the same as watching Cindy guzzle down that bottle of Pepsi.

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