If responding to events in real time is the current push for online advertising, what's next?
I'm going to dare to suggest it's actually engaging with the customer online, for real, in a meaningful way. What's more, I think I can help.
Like every other major brand, Old Spice has YouTube and Twitter accounts, along with traditional video advertisements that run on cable and online. In 2010, the folks at YouTube tied the two together and created a Twitter character who represented Old Spice -- "The man your man could smell like." The campaign kicked off with the TV ad, but continued on Twitter, where people who sent funny tweets to @Oldspice got a video response like this:
Now, think about how much work this took. Because Old Spice had already filmed the TV campaign, it had the sound stage backdrop. The videos are shot from a single camera angle, and could have been done with a $200 camcorder mounted on a $20 tripod. Given 10 minutes to come up with a witty reply, 10 minutes to record, and one take with no editing, the Old Spice Guy could come up with a reply while the original author was probably still online. While some replies went to unknowns like @wawoodworth, Old Spice Guy was more likely to reply to Kevin Rose, Alyssa Milano, and Justine Bateman -- popular celebrities likely to retweet or share the material themselves.
A day's work for a small team netted a dozen Old Spice videos and around 3 million views, which is about as much as Coca-Cola drove online with its "Coke Chase" campaign. Unlike Coke, though, Old Spice did it without the $3.8 million dollar price tag for a Super Bowl spot.
Why this is different
Other attempts at real-time marketing, like the Oreo Super-Bowl tweet, respond to a current event with a witty remark. They require a senior marketing exec to pay attention, notice something timely, and take a small risk.
Please forgive me if I am underwhelmed that a VP in Brand Management sent a tweet.
I'm talking about something else -- responding to the customer and engaging with them, possibly as the voice of the customer, possibly as an employee. Some companies do this already. The social media policy at Zappos, for example, is "Be real and Use Good Judgement."
For the most part, though, fear of bad PR leaves big companies doing nothing at all.
The second part -- and where we come in -- is that companies don't know how to do it. Traditionally, they've relied on agencies to do advertising. Agencies are likely to buy media and unlikely to involve IT, especially corporate IT.
There are a few opportunities here.
What we can do
The main reason companies have avoided this sort of real time engagement is because of the risk: A culturally insensitive joke could sink your brand fast.
Corporate IT can provide risk management -- specifically, we can create the infrastructure to track the company's reputation online, tying tools like Radian6 back into our website, back into the campaign's, and then out to social media sites like Twitter and Foursquare. If we make these tools flexible enough, we can swap campaigns in and out easier, allowing the business development guys to focus on the content, not the how.
But part of me wonders about going a different way.
If we took our IT knowledge and instead created a media firm that lets brands manage the entire campaign, from print to video to online, what would that look like? How much easier could we make the work of the people in marketing, and how much more valuable can we make our contributions?
The videos are shot from a single camera angle, and could have been done with a $200 camcorder mounted on a $20 tripod.
The (first) flaw in assuming the above is a roadmap for successful advertising – it's naive. Anyone who thinks it's possible to realize the same results experienced by Old Spice in a marketing campaign using the formula referenced in the quote should revisit what was probably one marketing course.
The reality: This (or any) TVC is only one of many strategic components in a successful campaign, and a single piece in a multi-channel strategy. And yes, this campaign was smart. But thinking that the sum total of what it takes is a camcorder, a tripod and a single TV ad is not.
This is a smart kind of advertising, having used less of assets of the company and for the perfect execution and making the ad hit.
"Perfect execution" + an ad "hit" takes more, not fewer, resources/assets. Old Spice spent $20M over two quarters to get the recall necessary for Matt Heusser to include this as an example as a reference point in his blog. Behind that was research and analytics, positioning and messaging, creative development, an integrated media strategy, smart media buys, sophisticated film production and great execution that took probably tens, if not hundreds, of people.
Counter intuitive but true, the easier it looks to the audience, the more skill it took to produce to get the "hit."
Alison Asked - "Since IT can provide marketing with these capabilities, how can the department go about informing marketing/advertising that these skills and tools are available in-house?" - for this i'd suggest plain old fasioned relationship building. If you don't even know where to start (who do I ask to lunch? That's weird, right?) you might go to a local meetup that is the intersection of marketing and tech - like a wordpress meetup, or something slightly more enterprisy. Look for the person from your company, and hang out with him. IF there's no one from your company, keep building alliances. Besides, the content at user's groups is usually good, you meet knew people, and sometimes there are chicken wings ...
Certainly marketing is going to have to find replacements for the old channels. I think it remains to be seen whether the new channels are more interesting, more annoying, or--most likely--a mix of both.
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The whole Amazon.reader debate is a double-stupid. It's stupid to think that there's any e-book buyer who doesn't know Amazon's URL, and it was stupider to let ICANN launch the whole free-form TLD initiative to start with.
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