Real-Time Marketing and the Power of a Selfie

March 12, 2014

By Doug Chavez, MediaPost

Real-time marketing, also known as RTM, has taken the main stage in the last few months. Many marketers are very starry-eyed over this phenomenon. And for smart entertainment marketers it’s working pretty well, à la big real-time events such as the Emmys, Academy Awards and even the recent Winter Olympics, to some degree. As always, the trick for marketers is how to do it well and right.

We all knew the Oscars would be a boon for RTM. Samsung’s sponsorship with ABC and Twitter’s Amplify was a great start. One of arguments I hear a lot from brand teams and even some traditional media folks is that digital can’t reach cume audience as fast as broadcast. That notion changed forever with Ellen’s famous selfie tweet and the flash mob of traffic that was so massive that it brought Twitter to its knees (that alone is another topic).

In just 40 minutes, Ellen’s photo surpassed the previous record of 778,801 retweets, which took hours/days to reach, and in one hour the picture had over 1 million retweets. Samsung’s sponsorship put the phone front and center of the group selfie. Samsung’s product placement (the only phone on stage in Ellen’s hand) and their surrounding broadcast created a ubiquitous sponsorship.

While Samsung had a massive sponsorship and put RTM front and center, sadly, I don’t believe they won the hearts and minds of consumers because it was a forced message. Yes, their brand perception was lifted but the tactic was heavy handed. And for many that did some digging, they found out that other Ellen selfies during the show were taken via iPhone. And as we all know, transparency is a key ingredient in social marketing. Congrats to Samsung for a smart and fully integrated media strategy that spanned broadcast, product placement and social. Yet, there are better and more cost-effective ways to doing RTM.

One of the first anchor tenants in marketing, especially social media marketing, is listening. Arby’s is probably the best example of entertainment marketing using RTM very smartly. Arby’s didn’t have a war room staffed with folks pushing out tweets or monitoring the Emmys. But they were listening. And with a single tweet, they are the brand that got the biggest audience engagement and amplification during the Emmys.
Arby’s real-time tweet, “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back?,” was simple, brilliant and authentic. Of course, it was also pretty funny. People responded en masse. And Arby’s kept the conversation going all the way to the Oscars by winning the auction of Pharrell’s hat and donating the money to charity. Pretty good for a challenger brand in the QSR world. Additionally, from a CPM perspective, Arby’s created one heck of a low CPM investment and hefty audience engagement.

Arby’s is just one brand whose RTM entertainment marketing is on the right path. Listen, keep the conversation authentic, relevant, add some humor or a compelling story, and you will see good results. There are many other brands that are doing it right, and bigger brands may need to take a different approach. In the end, it really comes back to listening and figuring out where and how to engage. RTM is here to stay, and with the march of second screen solutions, it’s only going to become a bigger part of how we reach customers.


"Real-Time Marketing and the Power of a Selfie." Doug Chavez. MediaPost, 03/13/14.

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