Why You Should Pay Attention to Pepsi’s Decision to Pull out of Superbowl Commercials

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by Steve Heideman on February 5, 2010

About 2 months ago, Pepsi announced that it would not be advertising in the Superbowl for the first time in 23 years. Why, after so long, would Pepsi concede that large of a customer mindshare to rival Coca-cola? Their answer is, in my opinion the canary in the coal mine for a television dominated media and it should make you, as a small to medium sized business owner very excited.  A Time magazine article on Yahoo News puts it very well:

To Pepsi, and to companies around the world, the days when mass-market media is the sole vehicle to reach an audience are officially over. Instead of pouring millions of dollars into a Super Bowl commercial, Pepsi has started a social-media campaign to promote its “Pepsi Refresh” initiative. Pepsi plans to give away $20 million in grant money to fund projects in six categories: health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods and education. People can go to the Pepsi website refresheverything.com – which can also be accessed through Facebook and Twitter – to both submit ideas and vote on others they find appealing.

As a social media marketing company, our answer was “about time”. We have long held the notion that social media can drive just as many eyeballs as mass media and it can do so over a longer period of time. In other words,  once you put something out on the internet, it is out there for anyone to find (AND discuss). This is in direct contrast to  a TV commercial that is 30 seconds and done. Sure, there can be some residual “water cooler buzz” but this too eventually fades from consciousness. Also, because social media is a dialogue rather than a monologue, we are able to participate in shaping how we want companies (like Pepsi) to behave and interact with us as consumers. The feedback is faster and more direct which can allow even big brands to adjust messaging quickly to the general sentiment of their actions. While many Television networks and companies are frightened of this sudden and dramatic shift, it is my opinion that these new media should be seen as an asset by these folks rather than something to “deal with”. NYU Professor Clay Shirky discussed this very well at the Web 2.o conference a few years ago:

The biggest opportunity for businesses of all sizes  in this new media is the ability to inject themselves into the dialogue right alongside large mega-companies such as pepsi and be put on a level playing field with them. Cost of eyeballs–at least in the digital arena as a barrier to entry is no longer there if you can solve the content problem and leverage the conversation that is happening regardless of if you are there or not. As a business, it will greatly behoove you to jump in and participate in your area of expertise.

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