You read – and watch – all kinds of things online these days.

Sometimes, they even make sense. Other times…well, not so much.

In a recent post on AdWeek’s AdFreak blog, online auto insurance provider Esurance was hailed for launching a “Twitter stunt” that generated “mind-boggling stats.”

The “stunt” at the center of the blog post involved the company’s #EsuranceSave30 sweepstakes – a contest that unfolded on Twitter and was intertwined with the nationally televised broadcast of a Super Bowl that was equally “mind-boggling” in its lopsided result.

In a nutshell, Esurance purchased the very first ad slot after the game’s conclusion, and vowed to give away the difference in price from what an in-game spot would have cost them. That difference amounted to a cool $1.5 million, and went to one lucky viewer who tweeted the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 within 36 hours after the ad aired.

Former star of “The Office” John Krasinski, the brand’s spokesman, then announced the winner of the #EsuranceSave30 “stunt” during a broadcast of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” three nights later. Esurance’s big-time ad agency, Leo Burnett, then released a bevy of “social stats” from the campaign, including:

• 5.4 million uses of the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag
• More than 200,000 entries within the first minute of the TV spot’s airing
• 1.4 million hashtag uses in the first hour; 4.5 million in the first 24 hours
• 2.6 billion social impressions on Twitter
• 332,000 views of the TV spot on YouTube
• 261,000 new followers on the official Esurance Twitter account (a nearly 3,000% increase)

These online and social media “engagement” and traffic numbers are certainly impressive, but to write that it’s “safe to say it was a successful stunt,” is certainly presumptive. And not necessarily accurate.

Why? Because at the end of the day (or the “stunt”), all we’re dealing with here is a nice-looking list of diagnostic metrics. Nothing to do with sales, revenue, new client sign-ups or new insurance policy purchases.

It probably is “safe to say” that Esurance did get some new business out of this whole “hashtag hijinks,” and given the amount of activity those “social stats” demonstrate, there’s a very good chance the effort was successful.

But that being said, without knowing the site’s conversion rate to people requesting a quote or signing up for insurance policies, you can’t actually measure or discern the true “success” of the effort. For all we know, all that new traffic to the Esurance site was just misguided people hoping to sign up for the contest.

And that’s before we even begin to talk about offsetting the likely astronomical cost of producing, filming and running the Super Bowl spot and social media “stunt.” How much was Krasinski, now a budding movie star, paid for his involvement, for example? How much did it cost Esurance to bring Jimmy Kimmel and his show staff along for the ride?

Did enough people visit the Esurance site and then convert to new customers and insurance policy sales to even cover the cost of this campaign…yet alone turn anything close to a “successful” profit?

AdWeek is in the advertising business, and has been for a long time now. They should know better.

Here at Amplitude Digital, we’re in the advertising business too (and have been for awhile). We’re not in the insurance business, so we really don’t know what the margins look like for Esurance. But it sure sounds and looks like a the company would need to have added a lot of new policies to truly gloat about anything like “mind-boggling stats” or “a successful stunt.”

Of course, those are the not-so-wise words of AdWeek and their blogger, not Esurance or its representatives. But you get the point.

We sure hope that more marketers, advertisers, agencies, brands and businesses start to get the point when it comes to the very vital difference between diagnostic metrics like “likes”…and Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs.

Those who don’t “get it” aren’t likely to experience too much success in the long run. At least not where it really matters.

Like, say, staying in business.

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