Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Real-time advertising: is its 15 minutes up?

It was a year and a half ago that the team at Oreo sent their game-changing SuperBowl tweet – a tweet that would eventually win them both a silver and a bronze Cannes lion.

Brands scrambled to follow their lead, to prove their cultural relevance and ingenuity by tailoring their ads to real-time events. We saw a legion of royal baby real-time spots, of which very few were truly successful or original. Charmin won big with a Thor tie-in which remained news long after the tweet was (presumably due to copyright) deleted. Every savvy British brand jumped on the Andy Murray win, again with varying degrees of success.

But let me ask you something. When was the last time you saw a real-time advert, successful or otherwise? Not in 2014, I’ll bet. It seems as though the real-time revolution has fizzled to nothing and nobody seems to know, or care, why.

What happened to this supposedly game-changing practice? Essentially it was unrepeatable. The Oreo moment was fantastic. It was novel, witty and intelligent entirely because there was no way they could’ve known there would be a blackout. It was REAL real-time. Subsequent copycat “real-time” ads couldn’t capture that Oreo magic because all the events reacted to, royal baby, film release, and even sports results, could be prepared in advance. The baby was always going to be born, the film would always be released, and Murray had to win or lose.


If social media has taught us anything, it’s that consumers like to think of brands as friends – Oreo seemed like our quick witted buddy. Unfortunately, nobody laughs at the joke that was prepared days earlier, and that is where ‘real-time’ advertising fell down. What we as marketers should take away from this is that band-wagons are dangerous, and we need to think before we jump aboard.