Now, I’m not a beer fan, but I do want to drink at affordable prices. Metropoulos family recently bought Pabst Brewing for $250 million, which also includes the beer brands Old Milwaukee, Colt 45, Schlitz, Schaefer, and Stroh’s. For most national brands, buying a TV ad during the Super Bowl is the antithesis of cheap, but spending over $3 million for one little commercial can really change the cost per beer can!

On Sunday night, like many of its deeper-pocketed rival beer brands, Old Milwaukee rolled out a new TV commercial. The ad featured a celebrity endorsement of sorts from the comedian Will Ferrell. But rather than targeting the mass national audience that tuned in by the tens of millions to NBC stations and affiliates across the country, the Old Milwaukee spot aired in front of a much smaller subgroup—specifically, the thousands of people watching the Super Bowl in the country’s second-smallest TV market, North Platte, Nebraska.

The 52-second commercial, against a stirring soundtrack, features a single shot of Ferrell in a pair of shorts, striding through a wheat field toward the camera. He catches a can of Old Milwaukee that is tossed to him; just as he opens it, the commercial ends abruptly, mid-pitch. Unconventional? Sure. But as a bit of
marketing jujitsu, pure brilliance.

The ad aired during the Super Bowl on KNOP-2, the NBC affiliate in North Platte, and nowhere else. North Platte which exactly a major media market. Nielsen estimates that during the 2011-2012 TV season, North Platte consisted of 15,180 TV homes. That’s a tiny fraction of the overall potential beer drinkers who watched the Super Bowl. On Sunday night, 111.3 million people tuned in to the game, according to Nielsen, making it the most-watched telecast in TV history.

Yet despite its tiny TV audience, the Old Milwaukee ad managed to outperform some of the nationally broadcast Super Bowl commercials in an increasingly important metric of Super Bowl advertising bragging rights: chatter on social-media networks. According to a study by the Boston-based advertising agency Mullen, Ferrell’s Old Milwaukee ad has so far generated 1,640 mentions on Twitter. That’s significantly more buzz than was created by some of the national Super Bowl spots, including ones for Cadillac (GM) (which generated 345 Tweets), Century 21 (520 Tweets), Lexus (TM) (922 Tweets), CareerBuilder (1,001 tweets), and Hulu (1,191 Tweets).

On Sunday night, a @Daddymcc uploaded a low-quality copy of the Ferrell commercial onto YouTube, which was subsequently linked to by Old Milwaukee’s official Facebook page. The ad has since been viewed 155,000 times. By comparison, Budweiser’s (BUD) slickly produced “Eternal Optimism” Super Bowl ad has been viewed on YouTube some 99,000 times.

This is what I love to see – a smarter media approach to the old problem… How do you get more without spending more?  Beers companies have been espousing this notion for years about taste and marketers need to consider the same for their communication reach. Social Media is here to stay.

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