On the Monday following the Super Bowl every year, a lot of attention turns to the television commercials aired during the big game.  While highlights of the game are still being replayed on ESPN and others’ sports broadcasts, best and worst lists of ads are also being shared.  Advertising experts tout their winners and losers, recapping which ads did their jobs and which ones fell flat.  After this year’s game, though, something different happened…   actually, even DURING the game something different began eliciting ridicule from marketing professionals.

There was a lot of buzz within the digital marketing community about something other than the television commercials.  It was about what were initially assumed to be JC Penney ‘drunk tweets.’ “Toughdown Seadawks!!  Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???”, read one.  “Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle,” read another.  Someone at Kia Motors America tweeted, “Hey @jcpenney need a designated driver?”  Ad Age tweeted, “Was @JCPenney Twitter hacked or is their tweeter drunk?”  The idea that someone had partied a little too hard then posted an official company tweet seemed plausible given the fact that the festivities associated with the game had begun.

It was revealed, however, that the tweets were all business when a subsequent JC Penney tweet read, “Oops…Sorry for the typos.  We were #TweetingWithMittens.  Wasn’t it supposed to be colder?  Enjoy the game!  #GoTeamUSA”.   The tweet was accompanied by a photo of the drunk tweets on a mobile phone, held by someone wearing JC Penney’s new line of ‘GO USA’ mittens supporting the USA team at the upcoming Winter Olympics.  The whole stunt had been planned in advance and launched to perfection.

I recall thinking that this marketing ploy likely sent a lot of shockwaves through the advertising world, though few in that world would probably admit it.  I can only imagine, for example, the conversations that went on behind closed doors between some ad agencies and the marketing executives whose companies had spent millions of dollars for Super Bowl ads.  How fun it must’ve been for them to spend the next few days following the buzz JC Penney had generated for a fraction of the cost!

In the online discussions that ensued about what JC Penney had done, I detected mostly admiration for what they’d managed to do.  There was also some criticism, but very little by comparison.  Although there’s no way to prove it, I suspect many of those who were critical were also the same ones saying to their ad agencies, “Why didn’t WE come up with that!”

None of this is to say that such tactics are new.  Others have done similar, some with the desired results and some with the opposite effect.  The bottom line of the story is simple, though.  In an increasingly attention deficit society, creative new ways will be sought to hijack some of the attention generated by seemingly unrelated and/or loosely related events, to create positive buzz with the potential to last for at least a few hours (preferably days), and which costs little or nothing to execute.