Did Oreo Create a Monster?

What a difference a few weeks makes.

At the start of this month, the ad industry was falling all over itself to laud Oreo for its real-time marketing moment during the Super Bowl power outage. When the brand posted a picture of an Oreo with a sassy comment, it was as if the collective lights went ON among the marketing community:

“Real time is hot!”

“Real-time is the answer!”

“I need some real-time, stat!”

And then came the Oscars. And we saw, unfortunately, what happens when brands try too hard to jump on a trend. Most of the marketing I saw posted on Twitter during the Oscars was content that was already developed, “canned” so to speak, or simply deployed at an opportune moment. Only a few marketers took it to the next level, developing creative that was actually timed to what was going on during the telecast.

A hashtag set up by Edelman Digital exec David Armano to track the Oscars real-time marketing, #OscarsRTM, saw discussion quickly change from a few industry intelligentsia talking about the pros and cons of real-time marketing (myself included) to a mass of naysayers eager to bash everything they saw. To be sure, there were a lot of hamfisted attempts at being “relevant.” But the negative reaction will no doubt send many brands and their agencies back to square one when it comes to using real-time marketing. Some will probably not return, and deem the concept a flash in the pan. This couldn’t be further from the truth; there is so much to  be learned about what it means to be responsive, reactive and relevant, for brands. As I tweeted yesterday during the aftermath of the Oscars,


Advertisers Get Real (Time) For the Super Bowl

Nothing like a little power outage to get advertisers’ creative juices going, and boy, did they ever take advantage.

Marketers ranging from Oreo to Tide posted tweets and status updates on Facebook, delivering catchy responses to the unusual situation.

Ever since Oreo conducted its “Daily Twist” campaign last year, I had been waiting for the brand to come up with something else in the real-time realm. When the blackout happened, Oreo and its digital agency, 360i, quickly came up with a four-word tweet and an image, and posted it to the Oreo Twitter account.

The quick response happened because Oreo and 360i had planned ahead and gathered a team of agency and brand marketers to “listen to and optimize the chatter on the Internet,” 360i’s president, Sarah Hofstetter, told the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog.

In another example, Tide and its agency, Digitas, posted a tweet and an image with the words “We can’t get your blackout but we can get your stains out.”

Other brands such as Walgreens sent out timely tweets but didn’t take the time to develop new creative. But after seeing the creative executions from Tide and Oreo, merely tweeting a few words in response to a situation now seems too easy. These brands have stepped up the game, and the response to the tweets shows that people appreciate the effort. The Oreo tweet was retweeted more than 15,000 times as of this morning, while the Tide tweet has shown less traction, with 1,300 retweets. For what it’s worth, Oreo’s post went up three minutes before Tide’s did. First mover advantage?

Expect more marketers to take steps to shorten the creative development process to better take advantage of a moment. For Oreo and Tide, a 34-minute blackout gave them an opportunity to deliver a message that was relevant both to the brand and to the situation. And they got a lot of free publicity to boot – neither one bought an ad on Twitter to promote their blackout-themed tweets; they simply let the Twitter community — and a lot of journalists — do the work.

Two Takes on Real-Time From Gartner

It’s been really fun over the past few months to see the growth in the amount of commentary and analysis of the real-time marketing trend. Recently, two Gartner execs offered their own takes on it.

Mark P. McDonald, a group vice president and head of research for Gartner Executive Programs, wrote about the role of digital technology in shaping consumers’ behavior and experiences in real time.

Some key snippets:

There are two sides to behavior.  One is marketing in real time, which the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team defines as “a deliberate, sustained commitment to garnering business advantages through speed.”  Real time in this sense focuses on increasing the dynamism within the customer – company marketing dialog to enable organizations to sense and respond quickly to changing demands, for example airlines use of dynamic pricing, dynamic offers, and the like. The focus on real time in this sense is on organization for speed, agility and rapid response to unplanned events — within time frames that can impact business advantage.


A digital edge customer experience realizes that the best experience an individual can have is one that they create for themselves, in real time.  Consider an experience shaped by the customer, open to their context, past experience and delivered in their own time, on their own terms and specific to their situation.

Research VP Richard Fouts wrote about turning an organization into a real-time marketing machine. In his opinion, the transformation doesn’t involve a massive top-to-bottom business transformation. “Those efforts usually fail,” he writes, “because they try to deal with too much, and they often fight well established culture norms that need to handled more delicately. A more measured approach that leads by example is usually the better way to go.”

Good advice to remember for marketers, and for me as I cover this topic in more depth. It won’t do anyone any good to put out sweeping declarations about the need for real-time marketing. Better to show how the things marketers are already doing – using social analytics, doing search marketing, developing creative, etc. – can happen faster.

Real-Time: In the News and Blogs

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been reading lately on the subject of real-time marketing:

How Big Data is Impacting the Big Idea

– Great interview with Moxie’s creative director, Tina Chadwick, on how the creative process is becoming more scientific and analytic. Perfect read right before the excess that is the Super Bowl.

Real-Time Bidding Ain’t Real-Time Targeting

– Dave Zinman, CEO of Infolinks, writes about how RTB is often based on old data and cookies, not on actual in-the-moment intent.

Targeted Serendipity: Thinking Harder About ‘Relevance’

– Opinion piece by Steve Smith of MediaPost, which amplifies a concern that many have over the increasingly automated nature of marketing and ad buying: “the danger of marketers being too relevant all the time.”

How Did CBS’s ‘Hawaii 5-0’ Twitter Experiment Fare?

I meant to write a post about this a couple days ago but a report deadline got in the way.

On Monday, CBS heavily touted what it said was the first-ever use of Twitter to allow viewers to select the ending of a show in real time. 

Variety reports that people in the West Coast and East time zones picked two different endings: West Coasters chose #theStudent and East Coasters chose #theBoss.

“We were very excited about the results,” said Marc DeBevoise, exec veep and g.m. of entertainment, news and sports at CBS Interactive. “Social activity was up 186% according to our social guide numbers, and our site traffic to the show was up 200% from the average.”

DeBevoise told Variety that he estimated over 100,000 votes were cast.

CBS will try a different take on real-time voting next week, Variety reports. It will ask fans of “Let’s Make a Deal,” the daytime game show, to use Twitter to vote for certain aspects of the show while it is being taped on Jan. 25. The episode won’t air until Jan. 30, however.

How Sprint Used Digitas’ BrandLIVE During CES

Beet.tv interviewed Anne Marie Kline, of Digitas, at last week’s CES show. In a short video clip, she talked about how Digitas used its new BrandLIVE platform to track conversations online that were related to topics that Sprint was interested in, and then create a response in real-time, or near real-time.

I wrote about BrandLIVE when it launched late last year. 

Some Smart Reasons Why Real-Time Isn’t a Good Idea

I spend a lot of time in this blog thinking about why real-time is a good thing, and certainly most of the people I talk to agree that it is, despite the challenges.

However, I just came across this personal blog post, written by Dan McKinley, an engineer at Etsy.com. He describes several compelling reasons why using real-time web analytics to make immediate changes is NOT a good idea. It’s important stuff to remember as marketers figure out what path to take in the push toward real-time.

Here are some of the points he makes:

  • “Confusing how we do things with how we decide which things to do is a fatal mistake.”
  • “Depending on the change that’s being made, making any decision based on a single day of data could be ill-conceived. Even if you think you have plenty of data, it’s not farfetched to imagine that user behavior has its own rhythms.”
  • “Real-time web analytics is a seductive concept. It appeals to our desire for instant gratification. But the truth is that there are very few product decisions that can be made in real time, if there are any at all. Analysis is difficult enough already, without attempting to do it at speed.”