Name the Event, and Some Marketer Will Be Ready to Exploit Social Media

Marketing takes a big leap thanks to Oreo’s genius blackout Twitter ad

Headshot of Christopher Heine

During the Oscars this Sunday night, nimbly crafted ads highlighting both golden moments and gaffes will stream into Twitter and Facebook feeds. And don’t be surprised next month if new-Pope-themed promos—especially for those identified as Catholic—ascend into the social strata.

This is the digital world we now live in—where brands react to breaking news as quickly and nimbly as a news operation.

“It helps brands stand out and resonate,” said Luis Caballero, COO of Blinq. That’s certainly what happened with Oreo with its #blackout hashtag during the Super Bowl (and what didn’t happen for Poland Spring during GOP Senator Marco Rubio’s State of the Union retort).

Someday soon the marketing community may think back at Oreo’s simple, fortuitousness move (the brand didn’t even buy an ad) and tweet #smh. (That’s shake my head for all you unsocial types.)

“From now on, brands are going to have to do a lot more to stand out because the pool of real-time participants is going to get crowded,” noted Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group. “Oreo was in the right place at the right time. Next year, advertisers will be sitting there, waiting.”

To Kabani’s point, just days after the Super Bowl, Starbucks was plotting social ads tied to the “Nemo” snowstorm forecasted for the Northeast. Hours before the Feb. 8 blizzard took hold, Starbucks rolled out geo-targeted Twitter and Facebook ads with a “Snow Day” motif. Then on Feb. 11, the endeavor peaked with geo-targeted free coffee offers on Facebook and Twitter for consumers in markets where the weather had forced their local Starbucks to close down.

“We wanted to make a grand gesture,” said Alexandra Wheeler, Starbucks’ vp of global digital marketing. “We huddled with our corporate leadership over the weekend to pull the free-coffee offer together. We worked quickly on the creative and targeting, while putting paid amplification behind it.”

Starbucks hasn’t released any post-Nemo sales numbers. But industry insiders were quick to paint the brand’s multifaceted effort as the future of marketing, particularly compared to Oreo’s more artful play.

Rick Wion, McDonald’s social media lead, suggested the best social brand reactions will “include paid keyword buys, compelling content to go with them and real-time monitoring and engagement.”

Somewhere, Oreo execs are sitting and waiting for another slam dunk.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.