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Latest examples of real-time marketing

Marketers have been busy this holiday season, coming up with real-time marketing executions that are more intricate and involved than ever. Here are a few examples that I’ve captured:

WestJet’s Christmas Giveaway

Multipart real-time execution involving a hidden Santa speaking live to actual customers, asking for their wish list, and then a mad dash to acquire gifts for customers and fly them to their destination. The gifts came down the baggage chute at baggage claim – and they weren’t trinkets either! TV, Samsung Galaxy, and more.

Two examples themed to Amazon’s drone launch:


Century 21 Delivery Landing Pad


No Lack of Opinions About Real-Time Marketing

In the past several months, I have written four reports on real-time marketing. It’s kept me rather busy, hence the long gap between posts here. However, now that I’m prepping for a couple presentations on the topic I’m going to try to get back to posting more often.

In the short time from when Oreo burst on the scene until now, there has been quite a lot of virtual ink spilled over the merits (or lack thereof) of real-time marketing. RTM has officially moved beyond hype and into backlash, questioning and criticism. I’m not surprised. Plenty of pundits criticized social media marketing when it first came on the scene. Before that, it was internet advertising. You could make a business out of tracking the Hype Cycle of various technology and marketing trends (Gartner has).

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the business of virtual worlds, whose hype-backlash pattern seems to correlate with that of RTM. Many marketers spent gobs of money building pavilions in virtual worlds, and basically everything flopped. It could be argued that the money marketers and agencies are spending today to build real-time content studios is a similar waste. Does it really take a room full of people to write a tweet?

However, I think this phase of RTM, with much of the focus on coming up with snappy new twists on newsworthy events, is going to give way to something new. The pieces are being put in place to make RTM much, much bigger than a snappy tweet and a fun graphic image.

Here are just a few examples of how RTM will evolve:

  • Mondelez is working on the Smart Shelf, an in-store product which uses technology to guess the age and gender of someone standing nearby and puts up an appropriate ad.
  • Google is doing some really interesting things with Google Now, tying together your calendar, your location and more to deliver real-time information to you. My old boss John Battelle does a great job explaining what Google is up to.
  • And agencies I’ve talked to are very excited about the idea of doing more with dynamically changing the creative in ads, based on everything from the weather to what items are selling or not selling in stores. Expect to hear more about that next year. (For a peek at one example that’s a couple years old but still relevant, check out what Google did with Alka-Seltzer to re-imagine a classic ad from the brand.)

I think there’s a lot more exciting developments in store next year. I’ll continue to chronicle it at my day job. But in the meantime, in the interest of keeping tabs on all sides of the story, here are some of the recent opinions on RTM — pro, con and “mixed”:


Stop Whining About Real-Time Marketing

Twitter’s Kevin Weil on Real-Time Marketing — And Showing Results

Stop Whining About Real-Time Marketing and The Problem With a Lot of Marketing Punditry

Real-Time Marketing is Bull (yep, it’s positive despite the negative-sounding headline)

Oreo’s Digital Shop: Real-Time Marketing Takes a Lot More Than One Tweet


Oreo Envy: The Rea-Time Marketing Myth

It’s About Time to Get Real on Real-Time Marketing

Real-Time Marketing is Nothing But a Predatory Weed

Why So Much Real-Time Marketing Sucks


Have Advertisers Figured Out Real-Time Marketing?

Does Real-Time Marketing Work?

What is Real-Time Advertising? Opinions Vary — A Lot

I’m starting a report covering real-time advertising.

To kick off my research, I conducted an unscientific poll of my connections on Twitter and LinkedIn and asked them to define the term. The results make it clear that no one agrees what real-time advertising is. That’s not surprising in these early days; for a term as precise as “real-time” seems to be, it encompasses a range of advertising and marketing opportunities.

The variations in the definitions I gathered tell me that there is a great opportunity to analyze the role of real-time advertising not only in the real-time marketing ecosystem, but in the larger digital ad business and in the even larger  traditional ad business.

Here are some of the definitions I received:

“Brand interactions with cons. in the moment. Hungry = “Here’s a deal, try this.” Watching a film? = “Similar film coming.” ”


“a real time adv is where the contents are delivered by checking the current status/choice of the customer.”

“taking owned content that’s a response to a current event (eg oreo/Super Bowl) then promoting that content via paid media.”

“When you check out reviews of SLR camera lenses on Amazon, then see an ad pop up for SLR camera lenses just minutes later on another website.”

“Twitter postings playing off events everyone is watching, such as the Super Bowl or presidential debates.”

“Traditionally it’s been the newsjacking approach. Quick, reactive advertising based on topical themes that may be newspaper headlines (in the UK Virgin and Specsavers have mastered this approach). Increasingly (similar to the pressures on traditional printed news), this is becoming more of a case of ‘in-the-moment’ rather than ‘after-the-moment’. It’s now a case of proactively being relevant before and as the moment of audience interest is being realised, rather than during and after, but with ads that feel created in the moment as opposed to pre-planned. In essence it should feel less like traditional agency art, and more like community constructed content, just from a commercial source.”

You probably want to know which definition I agree with. I’ll come back later with a definition — after I finish my report.

Real-Time Beyond Social Media

Social media may be the current home for real-time marketing, but things are rapidly changing. Brands and their agencies are exploring how to bring real-time mindsets and efficiencies into their broader marketing and advertising planning.

Case in point: the media agency MEC has an executive whose title is “head of real-time marketing,” according to an article in the Financial Times today (FT has a gated website; a sign-in may be required to view the full article). In the article, Dan Plant, the MEC executive, describes a scenario in which TV ads could be created by developing multiple threads of video, which are then put together in a final product based on “live user feedback.”

“It means making more pieces of copy than you need to, but it’s the right thing to do to make media-spend work that much harder,” says Mr Plant.

I heard several similar scenarios in the interviews I did for my next eMarketer report, which will look at how real-time marketing is impacting the creative process for agencies and marketers. (If you’re wondering why the long silence on this blog, that’s what I’ve been doing.)

Marketers and agencies are focused on the real-time opportunities in social media because it has an easier path from concept to execution. There aren’t old-media barriers like approvals or the printing process to stand in the way of getting a message out in a timely fashion. But clinging to social media as the only venue for real-time is dangerous. Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communication and Technology, says as much, writing that the concept of “culture-jacking” risks becoming boring to users and potentially dangerous to brands that jump in at the wrong moment.

Despite the chorus of proclamations that culture-jacking is the future of marketing, I suspect this artificial mandate to flood social channels with real-time ads in hopes of amplification by customers retweeting and sharing won’t last too long.

Perhaps we need to go through this “culture-jacking” phase in order to get to a better understanding of what real-time marketing actually is, and what it can do. And then the sky’s the limit.

Personalizing Advertising on the Fly: Google’s Art, Copy & Code Experiment

Google has launched a project that aims to customize marketing-oriented experiences in real time.

MediaPost covers the project, dubbed Art, Copy & Code, in a piece that describes how Volkwagen is using the technology to power its Smileage mobile app. The app syncs with a VW owner’s car and seamlessly tracks where it is driven, enabling the user to tag passengers, upload comments and share photos of the trip.

Google demonstrates another aspect of the project in a short video on the Art, Copy & Code website that automatically integrates information about the user’s location, the time of day and the events happening on the web at the moment the person is watching the video. The video updates and changes each time the viewer watches it.

Another project, the Talking Shoe, embeds internet connectivity into the shoe, delivering information in real time via an accelerometer, gyroscope and other technology. The information can be transmitted to the person wearing the shoe, uploaded to social media sites or even added to real-time ad units, Google says.

These things take the idea of real-time in exciting new directions. Objects embedded with internet connections and sensors that tap into what is going on around them can deliver all sorts of intriguing new types of information that will be helpful not only to the individual using or experiencing the object, but to marketers that want to customize the information to deliver personalized marketing.


Real-Time Marketing and the Future of Advertising: What Industry Execs Say

Plenty of pundits have been blogging and tweeting up a storm about real-time marketing over the past few weeks. Here are just a few of the links I’ve captured; there are many more if you just Google “real time marketing”:

Real-Time Marketing and the Road to Compulsion

How to Make Real-Time Creativity Count

Agencies Reshuffle for Real-Time

Five Fast Truths About Real-Time Marketing (Ian Schafer)

However, I just came across a fascinating collection of essays on the future of advertising, collected by the University of Pennyslvania’s Wharton School. The Future of Advertising Program’s Advertising 2020 Project solicited the opinions of 175 industry thought leaders. The essays are all posted online and searchable, and so, being someone who’s thinking a lot about the future of advertising these days, I searched “real time.”

The search turned up 47 results, from industry luminaries such as Rishad Tobaccowala of VivaKi; Maria Luisa Francoli Plaza, Global CEO, Havas Media; and Calle Sjoenell, Chief Creative Office of O&M.

Sjoenell writes: “At least half of the production budget needs to be spent while the campaign is running; instead of blowing it all in one go.” And Plaza writes, “We must shift to real-time marketing. … Having access to real-time data and knowledge helps us look at the full picture at a granular level on a daily basis to understand which activities are working to achieve the desired results for our clients and to pinpoint the opportunities for improvement. This will allow us to optimize communications across channels, messaging and content as needed to increase marketing effectiveness.”

These executives see a clear, undeniable role for real-time data and real-time response when it comes to marketing and advertising. I encourage you to check out what they have to say.

What Others Are Saying Right Now About Real-Time Marketing

The Oscars have spurred a lot of intense commentary about real-time marketing, pro and con. Here are some of the links I’ve gathered; will add more as they become available.

Five Fast Truths About Real-Time Marketing (opinion piece by Ian Schafer, of Deep Focus)

When Did Twitter Grow Up? (Ad Age)

Most Oscars Real-Time Marketing Falls Flat (Digiday)

Oreo Tries Super Bowl Tweet Strategy at the Oscars (Adweek)

How the Marketing Community Lost Last Night #OscarsRTM (by David Armano, who created the hashtag)

I’m not sure who is behind the “Real-Time Marketing Sucks” Tumblr that was set up last night, but you can see some examples of Oscars real-time marketing here.

Update (2/26/13)

Time for Real Introspection on Real-Time Marketing (by Scott Monty of Ford)

The Script of Improv: What Is (and Isn’t) Real-Time Marketing (by Rohit Bhargava)

Not Every Major Cultural Moment Deserves an Immediate Response (by Sarah Hofstetter of 360i, the agency behind Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet)