Take 2: Real-Time Marketing at the Oscars

Brands hope for better results than last year

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Branded tweets during the Academy Awards Sunday night promise to inspire scores of reactions for the second year in a row. The 2013 Tinsel Town gala disappointed real-time marketing followers who wanted to be wowed by another Super Bowl Oreo moment. The best Oscar tweet last year garnered 1,200 retweets, which was just a wee bit of buzz compared to Oreo's more than 12,000 retweets during the big game.

This year, real-time practitioners face even steeper expectations. The Super Bowl, still lingering in the rearview mirror, produced several funny or clever moments, and even the questionable-to-bad tweets at least generated debate. And Arby's killed it during the Grammy's earlier this month, famously jumping on Pharrell Williams' hat. So the Oscars this year have not one but two tough acts to follow.

If nothing gains Twitter traction during ABC's Academy Awards program, demographics shouldn't be blamed. While the broadcast—from the red carpet through the three-hour telecast—has skewed female for two decades, Pew Research shows that women and men are evenly split on Twitter.

"The Oscars aren't as brand focused," said Socialbakers CEO Jan Rezab. "The fashion and beauty industry will be heavily involved. Others will be more relaxed. And it's not a topic that goes very international—it's mostly the U.S. and U.K."

But since Twitter's status as TV's second-screen complement is relatively unchallenged, brands will try. A quick poll of agencies showed that they'll be helping many more clients attempt real-time this weekend compared to '13. (They're mum on specifics.) And their performance on the Twitter stage could influence real-time marketing budgets for the rest of the year.

"We are coming off of what in general was a good [Super Bowl] RTM experience for a lot of brands," commented Anne-Marie Kline, svp of social content and managing director at DigitasLBi. "I believe [and] hope they will do so again if they're participating in the Oscars."

The Twitterati—thick with snarky marketing and media commenters—were hard on brands last year. David Armano, global strategy director at Edelman Digital, disagreed with skeptics that say the Oscars cannot be a big night for social marketing.

"It's social television in its truest form, and it's a phenomenon," he remarked. "Marketers who criticize real-time tactics are losing sight that there's some meaty sociological behaviors going on behind the scenes here fueling the real-time movement."

Strategy will be imperative, per numerous players, who nearly all recommended that marketers come with ready-made tweets in the queue while writing others on the fly. As just one example, it's not hard to imagine what Twitter-happy American Apparel marketers could have in the can just in case American Hustle has a big night. Or what might Sports Illustrated do with its swimsuit model, Kate Upton, if Gravity wins?

"Planned spontaneity is the order of the day," said Jordan Bitterman, chief strategy officer at Mindshare.

Matt Wurst, director of digital communities at 360i, added that having a blueprint in place for Promoted Tweets or Facebook ads will also be key. "Understanding how paid media can be used and what budget you have in advance will ensure that you can use paid media strategically to support your campaign or social-response goals," he said.

360i advised client Oreo to essentially stand pat during the Super Bowl after last year's big win. (See it in the examples below.) It underscores a bigger sentiment in the marketplace: Don't tweet on all cylinders unless the event is brand-appropriate.

"With the amount of attention being placed on the major TV events as opportunities for brands to fail, it might be just good sense to sit it out, especially with all the backlash at the moment from the media," said Jared Folkmann, group planning director at Critical Mass.

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