Twitter vs Traditional: Which is more effective?

oreoHere is an interesting argument: Apparently a brand “won” the advertising battle during the Super Bowl – not by advertising… but by tweeting (see for example, hereor here). While the tweet was, indeed, pretty funny… the question is was that tweet really “better” than a traditional advert? Well.. one critical voice is Mark Ritson, who argues in this article that no media is ever better than the other. I guess he has a point in saying that – at least from an impact perspective – an advert seen by several million people can hardly compare with a tweet tweeted to a few thousand followers. However, apart from a simple audience measurement perspective, there is another quite important point to consider – and that is who is most likely to be exposed to the tweet or advert respectively. I’d argue that is actually a crucial point – and that this makes quite a bit of difference when deciding who “won the battle”…

Let’s just think about who is likely to watch an advert vs who is likely to follow a brand on twitter (or facebook, or whatever). In the case of the Super Bowl, the audience is likely to be people interested in sport. If these are people who also like Oreo may (or may not) be the case. But in either case, the prime motivator for watching the game is not to find out something new/funny/entertaining about cookies. Alternatively, who follows Oreo (or any other brand) on social networks? Probably people who are quite involved (in an emotional way) with the brand already. That might explain why approximately 20 million of those cookies are eaten every day – but only 75.000 people follow Oreo on Twitter. Thus, having a brilliant tweet is hardly going to raise awareness or even remind people of the existence of Oreo (in case anybody needed to be reminded). But rather, a funny tweet is most likely to strengthen the emotional bond with already loyal followers.

The other important point is surely to figure out how any media (and media users’ characteristics) feature in the campaign objective. For example, if the main objective is to raise awareness of a brand, well, social media is probably pretty useless. Even if something is reweeted or shared, I’d wonder how much of this really has an effect that is more than very short-term. On the other hand, if it is to strengthen emotional bonds, or show a certain brand personality, then a traditional advert is probably less effective. At least less effective than tweeting and talking to a select few followers on a daily basis… (and occasionally being retweeted).

So if anybody is trying to answer whether or not Oreo (and social media by implication) should be crowned the winner of the advertising battle, I’d be a little skeptical and answer: “It all depends”. And of course, I do so while remembering that I retweeted a multicoloured Oreo sometime last summer (which a friend tweeted, from a friend, from a friend etc). While the image was cute, memorable and catchy… I also haven’t eaten an Oreo for several years now…. At least for their sales, not sure my retweet was a success.

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