Back in 2008 British Airways launched Terminal 5 at Heathrow. It was a complete fiasco. Dozens of flights were cancelled; check-in times were worse than the notorious T3; staff had “familiarisation problems”; and despite building an entire replica of the baggage sorting system to act as a backup in case of problems, BAA still lost passenger luggage whilst the lucky ones waited up to two and a half hours to collect theirs because 23,205 bags had to be sorted manually. It was a PR nightmare for BAA and BA, and dubbed a “national embarrassment” by the House of Commons.
I was working at BA’s lead advertising agency, BBH, at the time. The agency had produced a very shiny 60" TVC featuring fish, turtles, seals and whales gliding through T5, set to Julie London’s “The Good Life”. It was a really lovely ad, but clearly it couldn’t air at that time. We sat on our hands till the dust settled. Then the agency sent a creative team early each day for a week to T5 to speak to travellers. Combined with quickly turned around research data, these press ads resulted aiming to show the nation that “Terminal 5 is working”.
Seven executions were originated and delivered within 24 hours each and this was pretty unusual for an agency like BBH. It’s pretty unusual for an agency today too. It was a good example of real-time marketing and it was awarded as a result. Furthermore it was far harder to do in 2008 because “traditional” media had/has far longer lead times than simply hitting “tweet”. Other examples such as bet365's live odds half-time TVC’s or eBay’s live price TVC’s began to spring up. These truly were real time marketing.
But since then the term has morphed.
One month before the T5 debacle in 2008, an earthquake hit the UK. It was, as they go, minor. But in a land bereft of earthquakes, it made the headlines. Quick to react were BBH’s Lynx creative team who sketched up a very simple execution in response. Again, the response was swift. It went to press in national papers the next day as an example of what we used to call “tactical” advertising:
We now call this real-time marketing:
Let’s ignore the nomenclature. Both are simple executions that put the brand in context. “Earthquake” is arguably more impressive given it trades on such strong brand equity that it doesn’t even need a line — it can simply use the brand’s tagline. Oreo’s execution was applauded for its process, but little else. As a standalone execution it makes no sense — the brand is shoehorned into the context. But the industry wasn’t too concerned with relevance at the time. Not when it was so nicely executed. I championed it like many others. And rightfully so: it placed emphasis on Twitter’s power to enable brands to reach an untapped engaged audiences, and it delivered on that common brand metric of “a brand that’s relevant to me”.
Now that we have established what real-time marketing can achieve, it’s time we evolve it.
Last year, a few weeks after the Oreo tweet, we produced a tweet for Dulux during the BRIT Awards. We’d looked at SecondSync data and learnt that the BRIT Awards was the biggest conversation on Twitter in 2012 and that was likely to happen again in 2013. So that was the brief: get Dulux into the conversation during the BRITS. This was what we made.
It was not a truly spontaneous reactive tweet. It was semi-spontaneous, turned around in under 24 hours rather than under 40 minutes like Oreo’s. But there was relevance between the brand and the event.
And it produced 1.1m brand impressions.
It was covered by the national press and called a mini-Oreo moment. It did so well we followed up with similar executions that aimed to capitalise on more big conversations on Twitter: live tweeting during the Great Interior Design Challenge; the World Cup draw; the iPhone5c launch; and Burgundy Wednesday. We’ve also been creating posts around events like Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.
But as we came full circle to the next BRITS awards a year later we’ve experienced ever diminishing returns as conversations have become populated by other brands.
#BRITS2014 was dominated by posts by Cadbury, Paddy Power, Confused.com, VO5 and official sponsors Mastercard. That’s a lot of big brands to go up against.
So we changed our approach.
Instead of planning for events, we planned for response. Each day I send my social team a list of what’s trending on Twitter in the UK. Most days each of these trending topics is wholly irrelevant to Dulux, but sometimes there’s something beautiful out there. Something that hits the sweet spot of timely and relevant to our brands. Like a solar flare in February that meant that our whole country was exposed to the colourful lightshow of the Northern Lights.
And no one else was in on this conversation. Brands hadn’t already saturated the hashtag with irrelevant content desensitizing consumers to relevant content. So when our fans and #northernlights fans saw this it quickly became our most popular tweet of the year. We had originated and delivered it within 25 minutes of spotting the link thanks to fast process, client approval and Foap.
We could not plan for a solar flare. We could only plan for a quick response.
Now consider Twitter’s new Own The Moment tool.
It contains a number of events that it sees worthy of creating conversation around. I don’t know whether these are based on past or predicted volumes of conversation, but Twitter is pointing to these isolated moments as thought-starters for conversation planning. They have distributed this to clients, creative agencies and media agencies, which means a lorry load of them will be planning to capitalise on these conversations. And that means that you’ll be entering a very crowded marketplace.
The best thing you can do is avoid all of these moments because you can be assured that others won’t.
So don’t plan for the moment. Plan for the process so that when you spot something that others aren’t seeing you can move quickly. Ignore the moments others are championing and own your own conversation.
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