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Super Bowl

Last July, I wrote a blogpost about what makes or breaks branded content. One of my learnings and tips for successful content marketing read:

Be Brave: have a point of view. This will help reinforce your USP.

Since then, I have been exposed to many brands on a daily basis. And until only recently, I can’t honestly remember any of them coming to my attention for taking a stance on a worthy cause. Yet it is what we as consumers have come to expect – quoting the 2013 WARC Trends report:

Brands need to show consumers they are trying to help solve the issues society faces. (…) That may mean a greater focus on corporate ethics and authenticity.” 

In other words, brands need to make a positive difference to society, over and above selling products and services. This means identifying the social mission at their heart, showing true commitment to it and letting it be known.

The fact is that brands that go the extra mile like Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company, or female antiperspirant brand Secret, remain a minority still. Patagonia is not afraid of taking a political stance to help protect the environment. Secret famously fought for the rights of female athletes to be allowed to compete in this year’s winter olympic ski jumping games.

Then, this month, something magic happens. Hopefully, a sign that brand activism is slowly but surely becoming the way one does business.

4 brands unexpectedly grabbed my attention for taking a stand very publicly. They stood up for a cause worth fighting for. For what they believed was right and true to their mission. And by doing so, they have won me over. Or rather, they have won my gratitude as a consumer. As a result, I am more likely to buy from them and spread the word, with competitors fast disappearing in the back of my mind.

Google with its Sochi Olympics-themed doodle in support of gay rights was the first of such brands to come to my attention.

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Scottish Craft Beer company BrewDog also stood up for the Russian gay community by simply mocking Putin’s anti-gay laws and Putin himself. They created a special edition beer “not for gays” called “Hello, my name is Vladimir” – hilarious and useful; you can buy it online here. This only shows what a powerful weapon humour can be against oppressors.

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On a smaller-scale yet in the same spirit, hats off also to Russian snowboarder and Olympic Athlete Alexey Sobolev, who defied his country’s government by flaunting his Pussy Riot-themed board during the competition.

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Coca Cola celebrated a multicultural America in one of its Super Bowl ads this year. Simply, beautifully and very openly with more than 100 million viewers exposed to it. A bold, commendable move from a great, iconic American brand. We want more of these please.

And as I am wrapping up this blogpost, I came across one other brand that publicly supports diversity and inclusion. This time, a brand closer to home.

ANZ, one of the top 4 Australian banks, has been one of the major sponsors of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras since 2006. This year it became Principal Partner and to celebrate this, it turned its ATM’s into GAYTM’s on 23rd February:

Some may see seasonal brand activism (around major events only) as opportunistic and a mere PR exercise only, bringing into question the authenticity of the brand’s commitment to the cause – as opposed to being deeply integrated into their business model and company’s DNA (Raven+Lily and ecoATM are both great examples of this).

Regardless, seasonal or not, if it helps the community, it is a good thing. It may also be the start of bigger things to come or the manifestation of a long-term yet punctual commitment (ref. ANZ example).

Finally…

I thought of ending this post on a high… At first. Ending it on a low however is just as effective.

Subway grabbed my attention for the wrong reasons this month.

First, for its lousy Super Bowl ad – why spend millions of $$ on a made-for-TV ad at the Super Bowl?

And most importantly, shame on them for using the same chemical in their “freshly-made” sandwiches as the one used in shoe soles and yoga mats – yes, you read right.

The company has since withdrawn the chemical following a petition from 50,000 consumers. In my view, it should withdraw itself from the market altogether for making us eat plastic in the first place.

This simply reminds us of the enormous power we also have as consumers to make positive changes and punish (banish?) brands behaving badly.

Now… Any brands close to your consumer heart, that stand for something big and you want to give a shout out to? Or any brands you love to hate for the right reasons?

Let us know by hitting reply!

By Cecile Ferre

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A lot of ink has been spilled lately on the “immediacy of the internet”, the “real-time web”, the benefits of “newsjacking” and the fact that social media “war rooms”, “mission controls” and “creative newsrooms” are becoming a regular fixture at brands’ HQ.

These are just some of the causes and manifestations of what has become known as real-time marketing. Or 24/7 marketing as some of us like to call it.

I like to think of real-time marketing as a form of opportunism with a marketing or PR twist. In my opinion, it is best defined as:

The art and practice of taking advantage, in real time, of trending topical content to create maximum impact for your brand or product.

Where the impact is measured in terms of offline and online WOM, earned media coverage, sales etc.

A recent successful example of this is the “Dunk in the dark” Twitter ad from Oreo at this year’s Super Bowl, which was created and broadcast within minutes of the power outage causing some of the lights to go out. This tiny (and inexpensive) ad generated over ten thousand retweets and Facebook likes before going viral on Tumblr. Although the sales impact is yet unknown, the brand awareness and equity have most certainly gone up as a result.

Another lesser known but no less successful example is the appropriation of the Super Bowl by an American advertising agency for the last 3-4 years. Not only does its Brand Bowl do a great job of “highjacking’’ the game extensive publicity, it also leverages a well-known behaviour (the fact that everyone LOVES to talk about the Super Bowl ads) whilst showcasing the agency’s smarts in social media to existing and potential customers:

Why is real-time marketing grabbing so many headlines these days?

Although it’s been around for some time, it is becoming increasingly popular amongst advertisers as a result of a fundamental change in the way we consume content. This new behaviour has created more opportunities to engage with their audience apropos.

The fact is that more and more of us are connected to the web for a larger portion of our day as we hop from one device to the next. One way to look at our ever-growing need to stay connected through a device is nicely summed up here (courtesy of Rob Gordon):

sleep internet

According to Google, on average 4.4hours of our leisure time is spent in front of screens every day (be it a TV, mobile, tablet or desktop screen), with a good chunk of that time spent online. (And some of us are more addicted than others: with up to 9 hours spent on screens and more time online than any other nation, the British are officially the most obsessed with the www.)

To put this into context, the above Super Bowl case studies both tapped into the 36% of Super Bowl viewers who confided they would be using a second screen, with 52% admitting to using social media during the game.

What are the key ingredients to successfully targeting this new breed of highly connected consumers?

Simply put, speed, impact and relevance. Or the timely delivery of relevant content with high virality potential.

Easily said, not so easily done as the challenge for marketers then becomes to have the right skills on hand and solid logistics behind it.

Brands have to be prepared to commit dedicated in-house resource to it or alternatively outsource the service entirely – a substantial and continuous investment either way. Additionally, it is advisable that they continue leveraging their creative and media partner agencies’ smarts to ensure the content ideas, the timing and delivery channel(s) resonate best with the target audience, especially around key campaign dates.

Coca Cola and Oreo’s real-time management of their Super Bowl social media campaigns exemplify this cross-functional brand/agency operational model perfectly, and how involved it can get:

Coca Cola set up “war rooms” across the country as it monitored and responded live to user engagements throughout its Mirage TV and social game campaign at this year’s Super Bowl. The size of the multidisciplinary team pulled together on that one day was impressive:
“Nearly 40 execs from Coca-Cola, Wieden, Starcom MediaVest Group and PR shop Allidura gathered at the 360i offices in downtown Manhattan to manage the brand’s second screen experience. Another 20 people worked remotely in collaboration with the team, while Katie Bayne, president-North America brands, and Allison Lewis, senior VP-marketing Coca-Cola North America, were in New Orleans at the game.” (Source: Ad Age)

Likewise, Oreo’s Black Out Twitter ad would not have been possible without a solid operation in place: brand and agency teams (including copywriters, artists and senior brand stakeholders) were on call that day, strategising together in the same room, and ready to react within minutes to any opportune situation unravelling on and off the pitch throughout the game.

As a brand, you may prefer to keep your involvement to a minimum by outsourcing the operations and bulk of the work to an agency specialising in real-time content creation and newsjacking. That’s Pepsi’s choice with its partnership with Deep Focus’ social media service Moment Studio.

Whichever operational model you choose, it can’t be a half-hearted effort and requires a serious investment in time and $$ to deliver positive results for your brand.

Finally, another question comes to mind: can brands afford not to be committed to real-time marketing 24/7?

With so many of us connected around the clock, it appears not. The Burger King Twitter PR disaster, the latest high-profile hack in the series, shows how imperative it is for a brand to have a strategy in place for the efficient and timely monitoring of their social channels 24/7.

Whichever way you go about it, for real-time marketing to work in the connected world we live in, it requires a fundamental shift in mindset on the advertiser’s part i.e. their agreement to a lean, nimble approval process to allow for the speedy delivery of near-instant communications. And in my view that is probably the trickiest part and biggest obstacle to effective real-time marketing.

I have just read about Coca Cola’s recent Twitter fail at the Super Bowl (and campaign website fail also). A question comes to mind: could the brand have anticipated *and* avoided the issues experienced as it quickly reached its (increased) tweet publishing limit on the social network?

In my view, yes. On two grounds.

First, given the sheer size of the audience targeted on the day of the event, I feel it was ill-advised to use Twitter as a communication tool to thank *individual* users who were voting in its game. The risk of reaching the allowed hourly and daily limits was very real. An eventuality that became all the more real when voters on D Day were redirected to vote via Twitter… when the campaign site crashed under the heavy traffic.

What was the size of the audience I hear you ask?

Enormous. On the day of the incident only, as the ad aired at the start of the game, over 108 million Super Bowl TV viewers (vs 100 million estimated) tuned in and were able to vote for their favourite team through the campaign site and the brand’s social media channels.
Add to this the fans of the brand as content was seeded across all its social channels leading up to the game and during the game to get the voting and engagement going: nearly 60 millions Facebook fans, 0.5M+ Twitter followers plus YouTube viewers on top and without counting Tumblr and Instagram.

Not surprisingly, the levels of participation were no less impressive:

On its website, Coca Cola boasts “over 11 million fan engagements” and continues on with “Over one million fans visited CokeChase.com to vote for the characters they liked best. More impressively, those visitors stayed on the site, each participating in an average of eight “sabotages” against opposing factions. While the company anticipated fewer than one million total sabotages, nearly 7.3 million were performed”.

So, did Coca Cola simply become a victim of its own success having underestimated user engagement levels?

Yes but not just.

Regardless of audience sizes, I don’t feel it was necessary to thank voters participating via Twitter. In fact, it would have been ok not to thank them on Twitter in my opinion.

As a frequent user of social media networks, Twitter doesn’t strike me as being the right forum to do this i.e. I would expect a brand to thank me personally for my participation on Facebook but not on Twitter, where this kind of 1:1 interactions are pretty scarce in my own experience.
I feel Twitter is used at its best mainly as a source of up-to-the minute news bites – and when I retweet any of the tweets I receive from the brands, bloggers, etc I follow, I don’t expect them to thank me in return. I guess that’s how I have been conditioned.

As for Twitter’s response and policy on campaigns of that scale – I was relieved to read that Twitter expects advertisers to know better: “For Twitter, the issue boils down to protecting user experience and making sure that people and brands are tweeting in a judicious way”.
Judicious = sensible and Coca Cola was nothing but sensible on this one occasion.

I was equally pleased to find out that it is not Twitter’s intention to create special accounts with super high daily publishing limits. This would equal to a form of spamming in my world and as a Twitter fan, I would be devastated if it ever were to turn into Facebook any time soon, where the level of “advertising spam” is driving away users.

Finally, this one marketing glitch on Coca Cola’s part doesn’t take away the brilliance they have otherwise demonstrated in the planning and execution of their Mirage campaign – this truly was a marketing coup on many grounds and a fine example of how Social TV works – more on this later!

For now, check out the ad that kicked off this one-of-a-kind TV-and-social-media game if you haven’t seen it yet:

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