Costs to consider
Coad said he suspects that a “sophisticated marketer in a competitive category” like Pizza Hut has a contingency plan for its Super Bowl pregame ad if the brand does not get a submission it likes enough to spend the millions of dollars required to buy time on Super Bowl Sunday. But, he noted, the nation’s largest pizza chain likely has a marketing budget big enough to absorb the cost of its user-generated promotion not panning out.
He said the chain has increased its chances for success by giving fans the prompt of “show us your best ‘Hut, hut, hut,’” but added, “I still wouldn’t want to be the guy receiving all those submissions.”
Coad noted that Wingstop probably assumed a smaller risk turning to user-generated content for its commercial contest because it was not expected to spend millions of dollars on a Super Bowl spot. “A $3 million bad bet is one thing, but if your total budget is something like $300 million, then it’s the cost of a small mistake,” he explained. “Wingstop probably lucked out, because they’re on the other side with more limited dollars for marketing. They probably thought this was an economical way to get attention for the brand, and it worked out.”
To Nelson, issues of production costs and production values are beside the point when it comes to user-generated marketing ideas. A restaurant brand like Pizza Hut or Dunkin’ Donuts does not save much money with a free, crowd-sourced idea if it still must buy time during the Super Bowl or operate a billboard in Times Square, he notes. Also, if a video’s message or quality were inferior, it would not get picked.
Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ Donuts and Wingstop spent as much on media buying as they would have anyway, he added, but they sought ideas from fans that were more likely to be shared in social media.
“These initiatives are about creating a vehicle for people who are active in social media to participate with brands,” Nelson said. “Otherwise, you’re just asking them to forward a piece of content that the brand produced, and that doesn’t fly. The people [likely to enter these contests] are into discovery and curating experiences and affinity for brands, and they share that through means personal to them.”