Observations March 1, 2013 10:30 am

Obviously, this post is very late to the game and may appear as hypocrisy as it is not even close to a ‘real-time’ assessment of real-time marketing. I’ve been biding my time, reading all of the thoughts and opinions about real-time marketing efforts during the Oscars, and I finally have something to say. Oreo hit it out of the park with real-time marketing during the Super Bowl, showing quick thinking when they posted an ad about the blackout… before the lights came back on in the stadium. And then, because of Oreo’s great lead, a multitude of brands decided that the Oscars was going to be their real-time moment.

But the difference? The brands who tried in the Oscars failed. The efforts felt forced and predictable. Sure, they were ‘real-time’ enough, responding to a best supporting actor win or commenting on the night (You mean, there are going to be girls in gowns? Well done, real-time thinking brand!), but there’s little doubt that they were made way ahead of the show, not in real-time.

Relevancy and timing isn’t the only ingredient necessary to create a ‘real-time’ ad. If that were the case, ABC could be credited for ‘real-time’ marketing when it ran a promo for Scandal, starring Kerry Washington, and then came back from the break to show Kerry Washington on stage, presenting an Academy Award. Obviously planned ahead of time, obviously forced. But in real-time play, Washington was on stage after the promo! Responding in real-time! Not so much, and we all know that, right? But that’s exactly what I felt like watching the ‘real-time’ marketing efforts roll-in on Twitter.

What differentiated Oreo during the Super Bowl was its response to the unexpected. No one expected the lights to go out during the game, but when it happened, and other brands were scrambling to adjust scheduled content, Oreo forged ahead, breaking new ground. Brands didn’t do that during the Oscars- social media teams waited until the opportune moment to tweet pre-made content (made possibly more challenging given the huge delay in the show), but it shouldn’t qualify as ‘real-time’ marketing. What Oreo did was nimble and gritty, giving social media fans something entirely new. And the only example I saw during the Oscars wasn’t even a real response from a brand:


A gorgeous mock-up of Jennifer Lawrence’s fall, the most unexpected moment of the night. The favorite for Best Actress, a forced example of a real-time effort would be a congratulations to Lawrence, carefully timed with her acceptance speech. But a real real-time moment would have responded to the unexpected element of her win, as this parody ad does so wonderfully above, turning the moment into a glamorous ad for the fashion house.

I think real-time marketing is extremely challenging- which is why so many brands failed during the Oscars. Brands have minutes, if not seconds, to create a compelling ad that follows the live event, a challenge for the most creative and experienced team— especially because the process is so very different than creating any other ad. Brands will have to step outside of their traditional process and learn to innovate in order to deliver truly ‘in the moment’ ads.

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