In the words of Victor Hugo, there’s no stopping an idea whose time has come. In the world of branding and marketing, that idea is ‘real time’.
The Oreo era seems to be taking hold. The hold is very uneven, with just a handful of brands leveraging social media as cleverly as the era’s eponymous cookie. But when Unilever Canada’s vice president of marketing compares the time it takes to make a TV spot to the time it takes to make a baby and calls real time an “opportunity to do things differently” – aka, a lot faster – then it’s time to take note.
Sharon MacLeod, the aforementioned vice president, was interviewed by the Globe and Mail’s Susan Krashinsky last week, and in that conversation described, in a few very clear and succinct sentences, the new paradigm of real time marketing, using the success of Unilever’s Dove Beauty Sketches viral video as an example.
The day before that piece was filed, Terry O’Reilly’s weekly edition of Under the Influence was broadcast on CBC radio, and the theme was “real time advertising”. In it Terry describes the groundbreaking use of social channels as a way for advertisers to react in minutes: “From answering questions live on YouTube to the immediate messages brands put out during the blackout at this year’s Super Bowl to instant marketing during snowstorms and hurricanes, it demonstrates how far advertising has come, ” writes O’Reilly. “It’s no longer a game of inches, it’s a game of seconds.” From months to minutes to seconds. How far indeed.
The degree to which the business world has internalized these changes was the subject of a recent survey by Brian Solis and Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group entitled The Evolution of Social Business Six Stages of Social Media Transformation. In it they found that just 28% of businesses thought they had a holistic approach to social media, 12% thought they had a plan that looked more than a year out, and 34% felt that their social activity was directly linked to business outcomes. And only half thought that their senior execs were informed, engaged and aligned with their company’s ‘social media strategy’.
Like we said above, the numbers are uneven. What about the supply side? Can agencies deliver in real time? According to Sabaa Quao, partner at recently established content management firm newsrooms, part of Digital Journal, no way can a traditionally structured agency deliver. They’re built to make babies, and as Sharon MacLeod pointed out above, there’s gotta be a faster way to market. She even uses the term ‘newsroom mentality’ to describe the mindset that is required for the rapid-fire response demanded in social channels.
As Terry O’Reilly reminds us in his most recent radio show, “Oreo” is now a verb. “To Oreo” means to respond in context and in real time. No longer will prospective clients ask, have you ever done TV? Now it’ll be “Can you Oreo?” wn
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