A Sneak Peek Into Volkswagen’s Super Bowl Social Media “War Room” Plans

This is shaping up to the most digitally-enabled and interactive of Super Bowls, with many of the advertisers — and even some non-advertisers — thinking very holistically about their Big Game marketing. Oreo raised the bar with its rapid-response Tweet during the #BlackoutBowl last year, and, now, such quick wit and equally speedy media creation capabilities are coming to be expected.

What does it take to mount a social media operation worthy to accompany a Super Bowl ad in these days of second-screening, mobile video, and the like? To find out, we spoke to Super Bowl advertiser Volkswagen, which has been in training for the Big Game for several weeks.

The Front Page of Volkswagen USA's Corporate Site

The Front Page of Volkswagen USA’s Corporate Site

The company will have a substantial team manning a Super Bowl social media “war room” in Los Angeles, with other brand representatives participating by phone or chat in Herndon, Virginia, which is Volkswagen of America’s headquarters.

“We will be setting up a studio so we can shoot video in real time and there will be monitors set up to do monitoring of social conversations, so that we can identify what topics we want to address,” Jennifer Clayton, manager of media and innovation at Volkswagen of America, told me. “There will be producers, obviously, production, edit, talent from the [TV ad] shoot, and then Edelman [PR agency] staff and VW staff that are participating in the program.”

Clayton estimated that 10 to 12 people total will occupy the “war room” from the morning of the game to well after its conclusion.

What types of topics will the team choose to address? The focus is on the themes explored in the pre-released spot for the game, which stresses the company’s commitment to precision engineering and the longevity of its vehicles, while managing to be amusing at the same time.

The company has long relied on associating its brand with quality German engineering, and precise German engineers, and this campaign doesn’t stray from those roots. In fact, the “German Engineers” from the TV advertising will be the personalities engaging with users on Twitter during the big game.

When the social media team on duty sees an appropriate opportunity to jump into the conversation, or to respond to a user, the group will go into rapid-response mode, crafting text and shooting video of the German Engineers commenting in real time.

“The idea is that they will be responding to various conversations and sharing their perspective on those topics,” Clayton shared. “It’ll be short-form, whatever is contextually relevant, but I anticipate that the videos will be around 15 seconds, roughly.”

The team has shot some video in advance, anticipating situations that may arise in the game — such as one team winning, or the other team winning. But most of it will be accomplished in real time. This is the first year that Volkswagen will use video to engage in a real-time manner. Previously, interactions had been text only.

Interestingly, the company chose not to use a dedicated hashtag on its TV ad creative, but liberally uses the @VW Twitter handle in its tweets, as well as hashtags like #VW and #GameDay.

On Choosing The Moments To Engage:

“We’re looking at, perhaps moments in the game, where there’s a volume that percolates up, and we think there’s an organic way for Volkswagen to insert ourselves into that conversation,” Clayton said. “We’re sensitive to not forcing the issue and making it feel unnatural. I don’t know what the topics will be right now. That’s the beauty of this environment is that we’ll be able to monitor and see where there’s opportunity and where it makes sense for Volkswagen to be a part of that conversation.”

On Potential “Hijackings” And Other Sensitive Brand Issues:

“We have a community management program that’s ongoing and I would just say we’re not actively concerned with that issue, but what we have seen historically when something like that has happened is that we have a huge amount of advocates out there that will do a lot of the talking for us,” said Clayton. “It’s been great to see that past owners and current owners really change the conversation for us.”

Still, it’s notable that the company will have so many staff on hand, and standing by at headquarters, in case something significant should come up that needs to be addressed at a higher level, or by a legal expert.

On Measuring Success:

“Ever since the teaser was released about a week ago, we’re looking at the context of the whole campaign over an approximately 2 week time period. We’re looking at engagement, specifically across our social platforms, and views of the creative that we’re running, and the impressions from the PR,” said Clayton.

At the time of writing, Volkwagen’s spot on YouTube had garnered 1,614,863 views, with 4,299 thumbs ups and only 568 thumbs downs. That in a single day.

And before this Super Bowl season had even begun, Volkswagen was already the most shared Super Bowl advertiser ever, according to an Unruly report, boasting 7 million ad shares — many of them from its popular “The Force” ad in 2011, featuring a child wearing a Darth Vader costume.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 6.01.17 PM

The company isn’t taking any chances, either. Its YouTube version of “The Force,” as you can see above, encourages people to check out their 2014 entry, and Volkswagen is also advertising on the Google property, even though their ad is the first organic result for this query.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 5.48.09 PM

As the Volkswagen folks told me at the end of our conversation: “stay tuned.” It’ll be interesting to see what comes of the war team’s real-time interactions during the Big Game. Marketing Land will be covering the action via a live blog and through social interaction.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Content Marketing | Facebook: Marketing | Features: The #Hashtag Bowl | Public Relations | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing: Hashtags | Super Bowl | Top News | Twitter: Marketing


About The Author: is executive features editor of Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. She’s a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported on, written about and worked in digital media and marketing for more than 10 years. She is a previous managing editor of ClickZ and has worked on the other side of digital publishing, helping independent publishers monetize their sites in her work at Federated Media Publishing.

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