Newsjacking the Oscars: Who were the Real Time Marketing Winners in 2014?

Wednesday, 05 March 2014

Who nailed it on Hollywood’s big night?

Globally anticipated events such as the Oscars and the Superbowl have gone to the forefront of marketers thinking when it comes to real time marketing strategy.  We have seen both successful and desperately bad attempts from brands who have attempted to highjack trending news stories over social media and other channels. The prestigious Oscars ceremony was no different and as the glitterati of Hollywood gathered for movielands biggest night of the year, brand marketers prepared to take advantage of this globally trending event.

We took a look at the brands who really stole the spotlight with their well executed RTM campaigns and why.

Arby’s – Building on the Buzz with Pharell

Arby’s had already nailed their realtime social marketing earlier this year at the Grammy’s after superstar Pharell appeared in a hat that bared an uncanny resemblance to their logo. A tweet from Arby’s to Pharell’s handle resulted in a response from the A-lister and thousands of retweets and favourites from the Grammy’s audience.

Could they go one better?

Taking advantage of his hat’s outrageous popularity on social media, Pharell placed the Westwood headware on Ebay offering to donate the winning bid to charity From One Hand To Another.
Who won the bid? Who else but Arby’s. The brand purchased the Grammy’s hat for $44,100  and responded to Pharell’s Oscar night tweet, revealing themselves as the hats purchasers to Pharell and the avid Oscars audience. A long-tail real time marketing effort that has driven awareness of Arby’s through the roof, as well as providing a healthy boost to their community PR campaign. Well played sirs.

NASA – A Dose of Real “Gravity”

NASA were giving a highly privileged position in the real time marketing stakes at this years Oscars. “Gravity” was earmarked to score a clean sweep at this years Oscars and NASA were on hand to take advantage of this foresight and prepare for the social media buzz that would follow Gravity’s Oscar triumph.

The space agencies marketing magicians spent the night tweeting out scientific facts and real life images relating to gravity and space throughout the ceremony using the hashtag #RealGravity.  NASA were rewarded with a hefty amount of retweets and favourites, managing to stay on-brand, increase interest in their brand subject and boost further engagement with a wider social media audience.

The ‘Super Selfie’ - Sneaky Samsung

The jury is still out on the nature of the ‘Super Selfie’ taken by Ellen DeGeneres. Was it an organically occurring social media event that went viral or a preplanned move by the Oscars partner Samsung?  Opinion is leaning towards the latter after it was revealed that DeGeneres was using her own personal iPhone backstage for selfies, with the Samsung Galaxy only making an appearance when the opportunity for the selfie arrived.

Either way, the coverage achieved by the selfie was phenomenal – the selfie crashed Twitter and has now hit 2.7 million retweets and 1.7 million favourites.

So what was the secret sauce in these brands real time marketing recipe that led them to success?


1) Always be on time

Let’s be honest. Real time marketing is all about being timely and witty. You want people to look at you as a big-time contributor to the biggest news story of the day.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be the fastest to react to the latest trending story on social media.  You need to react when it makes sense to your brand and when you have something relevant/entertaining to contribute. Not just because you can.

Systems need to be implemented that allows your marketing team the flexibility and independence to react to breaking news.  This could mean trimming down the chain of authority to launch new content or keeping creatives on hand to take advantage of the moment.

2) Don’t just tag-along to the party, join in

A globally trending hashtag isn’t a golden ticket to marketing success.  Rafts of ill-advised and inept brands believe that they can produce a self-promotional tweet, slap on a trending hashtag and watch the engagement roll in.

Shamelessly jumping on the bandwagon without providing any relevant input stinks of desperation and your target audience is going to notice it.  Contribute to the discussion with informative or entertaining content. Be the guy that everyone at the party wants to talk to and make sure that you’ll be remembered rather than scorned.

3) Understand your audience and engage

Engaging in discussion is all well and good, but your quality of contribution is what will define your success. Try to understand your audience and create content that will appeal to their sense of humour or contribute to the discussion surrounding any event that you are choosing to target.

Take NASA. Sure they aren’t particularly relevant to the Hollywood scene, but when the headline Oscar champion is a film based entirely in space then you can be damn sure that interstellar interest is going to fly through the roof. So what do you do? You’ve got to give the people what they want! The spread of information and beautiful visuals NASA had to offer was staggering, managing to perfectly capture the audience’s rapt attention when their interest was piqued.

4) Be a conversationalist, not awkward

The beauty of Twitter is that it allows brands to engage with their audience as though they were sat next to them.  It allows brands to personify themselves and add a responsive character and voice to their brand name.

If all you do when you’re invited to the party is inject self-promotional speak and act self-involved no one will want to know.  We’ve all met that person at a party who talks about nothing but themselves. We hate them.
Learn to listen and contribute to the discussion through relevancy and humour.  Keep it refreshing, keep it entertaining and keep your audience captured.

5) Hit the Content Trivector

Let me simplify this. The holy grail of effective real time marketing lies within a trivector of different factors. These three factors are:

  • Brand Positioning – What does your brand represent, tone of voice, target audience and values.
  • Conversation Context – What conversation are you engaging in? Can you add something informative or entertaining? Can it be made relevant to your brand positioning?
  • Audience Sector – Think about who you are talking to. What conversation is engaging their interest and what can you add that will pique their curiosity and attention.

Find a the overlapping area of all these sectors and your quest for success will become that little easier. RTM often feels like an excuse for brands to become lazy about their content, sacrificing thoughtful production and creative to make up for the lack of time they have in creating ‘pure’ RTM or relying on the popularity of the conversation to carry them.  This is a fallacy. If you cannot produce anything worthwhile then save yourself that embarrassment and hop on the next bus home.

So what did the 2014 incarnation of the Oscars teach us?

As with any trending digital marketing strategy, real time marketing has already been declared ‘dead’ as the proverbial dodo by sceptics. Is that really the case?

Of course not.

The work by Arby’s and NASA and others throughout 2013 & 2014 has proven that real time marketing still has a valuable role to play.

Execution is what brands are struggling to comprehend. Do you plan? Do you wait for the opportune moment, and what if it never comes? Strategically incorporating real time marketing into a comprehensive marketing strategy is going to continue to cause Marketing Directors and Brand Managers a hell of a lot of headaches but the payoff seems to be worth the stress for most brands.

Creative process is another polarizing factor for real time marketing. Does a piece of content that was created preemptively have the same effect as one that is created in the moment?  RTM purists would probably say no, and I would tend to agree.  Capturing an unexpected moment as it happens carries a lot more viral value than capturing a moment that was expected.

Real time marketing may suffer a ferocious backlash when approached through inferior content, but you can bet your mortgage that brands will be the first ones to comment when the next worldwide event hits social media.