6 Potentially Wildly Inaccurate Observations about Tostitos and Social Sentiment

January 10th, 2012

It’s entirely possible you love this commercial. I don’t.

The Tostitos “talking bag” commercial ran extensively during the bowl game extravaganza on ESPN and other channels on January 2. (There are actually at least two spots, but this one ran more often).

Given that I almost never watch television without an iPad nearby, I quickly retweeted displeasure about the commercial.


Thinking I would find other funny tweets criticizing the spot, I did a Twitter search for “Tostitos”. But within seconds, I determined that I was in the minority – the commercial was a hit among many TeleTwitterers.

Sentiment Graph for a Talking Bag

Sentiment Graph for a Talking Bag

Using Sysomos social monitoring software, we found 500+ tweets mentioning the Tostitos commercial on January 2 and 3. Among them, 142 were clearly negative, 190 were neutral, and 180 were clearly positive.

Lessons Learned From a Talking Bag

1. There’s no such thing as universal agreement
Especially in a highly subjective arena like advertising, tastes vary widely. Hell, 12.7% of the American people APPROVE of the job Congress is doing right now. As a marketer, don’t sound the alarm just because you see a few negative tweets or forum comments doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Sentiment may even out in short order. As we wrote about in The NOW Revolution, you have to clearly understand what constitutes a crisis, and a few negative tweets isn’t it.

2. Twitter is a living focus group
Business has wanted to eavesdrop on customer conversations since the time of Pompeii, and now they can. Provided they were listening (and I very much suspect they were), Frito-Lay garnered hundreds of near-instantaneous points of feedback about their new advertising. Powerful mechanism. That does not mean that the people who liked the commercial will buy more snacks, or that the people who hated the commercial will swear off Tostitos. The belief that sentiment and social mentions lead directly to commerce is a dangerous assumption, and requires your own verification and testing. Results can vary wildly based on company and intensity of feeling.

3. Could Twitter be used for on-the-fly ad optimization?
As mentioned, there are at least two of these talking bag commercials. If I recall correctly, the one above ran, then the other one, then the first one again. Based on the volume and sentiment of tweets, could Frito-Lay have determined that the initial spot was better received (and it was, according to the tweets), and then decided to run it again as a result? For a major event like a college BCS bowl game, it’s not inconceivable that Frito-Lay could have been in contact with ESPN in real-time, and told them which spot to run a second time.

This has implications for rotation and optimization of broadcast. What about running a different ending to a scripted show show on the west coast, depending upon the tweets from eastern and central time zones? Hmmm.

4. Sentiment scoring remains an inexact science

Even with the excellent technology in Sysomos, we still had to manually review all tweets and recategorize a few from positive to neutral, neutral to negative, and so forth. Automated sentiment scoring is nearly impossible, and if you or your listening team aren’t at least spot checking sentiment, you’re probably dealing with data that’s not entirely correct.

5. Differences in social listening software are vast

We ran the same exact report in Visible Technologies, and found approximately 150 tweets for the same phrases and date ranges. We like Visible a lot. It’s solid software with great user interface. But the different between 500 results and 140 is pretty vast. Just like with Web analytics software (where the data differential between Webtrends, Omniture, Google Analytics and the rest can be large), there is no objective “truth” in social media listening.

6. Did the agency use a crowdsourced idea to devise the talking bag concept?

On YouTube, this commercial for a talking Doritos bag was uploaded as a response video. The description notes that it was created for the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl crowdsourced video contest in 2010. Interesting that both snacks are Frito-Lay brands, and that entries of the Crash the Super Bowl can be used and modified by Frito-Lay without exception, and in perpetuity.

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