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Marketers Get Real

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In a Times Square studio last Thursday, actor Ed Norton was interviewed as part of a Diet Coke promotion. The interview was beamed live to billboards in Times Square, as well as on the Diet Coke Web site and banner placements sprinkled on sites like E! Online, Cosmopolitan and Hello.

Diet Coke is not the only brand going live to garner attention. Marketers including Burger King and Adidas are warming up to real-time Web content, mirroring a shift in digital media away from asynchronous communication and content delivery (e.g., the sending of e-mails and watching posted videos) towards instant feedback and interaction. Upping the ante for these marketers are real-time systems like Twitter and Facebook, which mix content delivery with communication, making something hours' old seem stale.

"It's fascinating because it's really about the brand letting it all hang out and not being afraid of messing up," said Lars Bastholm, chief digital creative officer at Ogilvy North America. "If brands want to ... be seen as 'friends,' then they also need to have flaws like real people have."

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is experimenting heavily with live video. In October it ran an integrated campaign for BK promoting a live Web program featuring Nascar driver and BK endorser Tony Stewart proving his love of the Whopper by taking a lie detector test.

"The best way to deliver truth is real time," said Alex Bogusky, co-chairman of Crispin. "Part of Saturday Night Live's appeal is ... something can go wrong, someone can say 'shit.' We could have done a lie detector test and posted it, but it would have seemed less true."

Crispin, in fact, has just launched its own weekly show on live Web site Justin.tv. "Fearless Q+A" features Bogusky and another Crispin exec answering questions submitted via Twitter. It's a venue and similar format the shop used for client Microsoft with the "PC Hookup Show" over the summer. Stuff White People Like creator Christian Lander interviewed Web celebs like blogger Ben Huh (I Can Has Cheezburger) and Diggnation host Alex Albrecht, and answered viewer questions. The twice-weekly show had 1.4 million views, both live and recorded.

Watch live video from FearLess Q+A on Justin.tv
"I think people lower their guard that they're being marketed to because they get to participate," said Evan Solomon, vp of marketing at Justin.tv, which has run live campaigns for brands like Dr Pepper and Adidas.

Competitor Ustream has worked with CompUSA, Virgin America and Mountain Dew. Last Thursday, Stella Artois used it to live stream the World Draught Master Finals, where bartenders competed to pour the best beer.

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