Four Tips for Real-Time Advertising

On Friday, September 26, Adweek crowned a new winner in the real-time advertising game: Kit Kat, with its timely visual and tweet around Apple’s #bendgate troubles. The candy bar’s slogan is “Have a break, have a Kit Kat,” and the brand team knew if it moved quickly, it could leverage Apple’s “lemons” to make some sweet lemonade.

It took just 30 minutes for the team to get in the conversation.

“We don’t bend, we #break. #bendgate #iPhone6Plus.”

According to the Adweek article, the message was retweeted 100 times within the first 10 minutes, and amassed 1,000 retweets within the hour. Boosting the effort with Promoted Tweets, the retweet count climbed above 23,000, racking up 10,000 favorites and tacking on a few thousand new followers for Kit Kat. By comparison, America’s favorite sandwich cookie earned 15,000 retweets and more than 6,000 favorites when it quipped, “You can still dunk in the dark” during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout.

What makes real-time advertising so effective? When done right, it’s the Holy Grail example of a brand “getting it.”

When a brand can combine its unique attributes with hot-off-the-press relevance in the bigger context of its surrounding culture, it’s a winning combination. Suddenly the brand is hanging out with you, pulling up the stool next to you at the bar, adding fresh, witty commentary to the dialogue. There’s seemingly no agenda, just simple, light banter. This is a welcome contrast to what consumers typically experience through advertising — a feeling of skepticism toward carefully calculated messages driven from marketing campaigns that were months in the making.

At Eric Mower + Associates, we believe that effective advertising happens when consumers see Brand as Friend — a philosophy built on the idea that brands will build the strongest relationships with their customers through affection, relevance and trust. To that end, two of the core attributes we seek to leverage are surprise and listening. Real-time advertising taps into both — proving a brand’s ability to have an ear to the ground to understand the culture it operates within, while also being able to translate that understanding into an unexpected and relevant message.

By its nature, real-time advertising is a waiting game. It only works when you can align your brand with current events in the precise moment in which those events are relevant. Every second counts in this fast-paced marketing game. Here are four tips to consider the next time your brand wants to get in on the real-time action:

1.     Be off-the-cuff, not off-color.

Just because something is trending on Twitter, that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to get in on the conversation. (Just ask DiGiorno and Spirit Airlines). Real-time advertising is exciting for marketers in the same way a new business pitch can be — there’s a big opportunity at stake to quickly gain a lot of traction in a short period of time. This adrenaline-fueled turnaround has the potential to be really successful, or really distasteful. Make sure you vet the idea with a clear head before hitting “Tweet” amid the excitement.

2.     Put your process aside.

In real-time marketing, there’s no room to accommodate a lengthy review process and several rounds of changes. That isn’t to say there should be zero protocol around your efforts, but it will be important to strip your team down to just a few key players who can make smart, fast decisions around an idea. Remember — it’s “real-time advertising,” not “next-day advertising.”

3.     Don’t forget to be relevant.

Real-time advertising isn’t just about showing up to the conversation at the right moment. It’s also about having something relevant to say. Kit Kat played off the idea of bending and breaking, an action that is literally tied to their product. Oreo went with the snacking angle for the Super Bowl — a blackout might stop the play clock on the field, but it need not stop the party in your living room.

4.     Don’t overthink your message.

When we say something witty in everyday conversation, it’s a product of our personality instinctively firing on the topic of the moment. Nobody is going off to the corner to draft some potentially meaningful sentences to share at Happy Hour. The conversation is organic and comes and goes in the moment. Real-time advertising should feel the same.


By Lisa Dolbear, Account Planner, EMA Insight