That Esurance Super Bowl Stunt and Finding the Real Value of Social Media

by Mack Collier


So here’s the deal: Instead of buying a Super Bowl ad, Esurance bought the first ad AFTER the Super Bowl.  And they saved $1.5 Million in the process, then gave away that money.  If you wanted to win the cash, all you had to do was tweet the hashtag #ESuranceSave30 within 36 hours of the ad being aired.

AdWeek lauded the stunt as a huge success, and cited these results in making that claim:

• 5.4 million uses of the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag
• More than 200,000 entries within the first minute of the Esurance commercial airing
• 1.4 million hashtag uses in the first hour and 4.5 million in the first 24 hours
• 2.6 billion social impressions on Twitter
• 332,000 views of the Esurance commercial on YouTube
• 261,000 new followers on the official Esurance Twitter account—an increase of nearly 3,000 percent
• A 12x spike in visits to the Esurance website in the first hours of the sweepstakes

Does that look like a successful social media sweepstakes to you?

Augie Ray has an exhaustive analysis of the social sharing results Esurance saw from this stunt, and is critical of the rush to laud these results as being a sign of a win:

I am deeply disappointed to see Esurance’s Super Bowl sweepstakes results widely celebrated. Six years into the social era, I thought we had reached a certain point of social media maturity where we realize that fans and followers are not leads and that relationships are built through shared values and meaningful interactions. I naively thought that we had turned a corner, with widespread understanding that winning in social media occurs by providing great experiences that build long-term relationships and not with campaigns that yield short-term spikes of activity. I was wrong.

It’s easy to look at the results and be wowed.  But as Augie pointed out in his post, let’s not lose sight of the fact that these engagement figures are based on Esurance giving away $1.5 Million dollars.  I’m betting any of us could do the same thing on Twitter and get a shit-ton of new followers.

Augie also points out in his post that ESurance has already lost 15% of the followers they gained from this stunt.

And to me, this is the key point.  How well does Esurance convert these new followers and visitors into customers?  A 12X spike in website traffic is significant, as long as those visitors didn’t simply go to the site for 15 seconds because of this sweepstakes, and then never return.

On the other hand, if Esurance found a way to stay engaged with those new website visitors, then that does have value for the brand.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the people that engaged with the brand immediately after the ad likely had no loyalty toward the brand, they just wanted to win the cash.  So while the ‘eye-popping’ social engagement numbers look good, they are the social media equivalent of farting in an elevator.  It gets everyone’s attention…till the doors open up and then everyone moves on with their lives.

The ultimate success of this stunt will be dictated by how many new customer relationships are created as a result.  If Esurance built into this ways to leverage the new exposure into an ongoing relationship, then the chances of this stunt being a success increase dramatically.

My guess is they (and their agency) are thrilled with the extra ‘pr value’ they got from this.

What do you think, do the above results make this a successful initiative in your mind?

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