When the lights went out at the Super Bowl earlier this month, the power clicked on for the folks tasked with marketing Oreos. Even before the power was restored at the Superdome, Oreo had tweeted out an ad with the caption “Power Out? No Problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” It went viral in seconds, being retweeted thousands of times and being the focus of the Monday morning water cooler talk. It worked because it was executed with lightning speed and it was smart.
Since that moment, people have asked if that is the future of advertising – lightning quick, agile execution. And I argue that the answer is yes in theory, but probably no in reality.
A couple days ago a Harvard Business Review blog suggested that the future of advertising is for advertisers to act like newsrooms – to be prolific, audience-centric and agile. Just like the agency 360i was on Oreo’s behalf during the Super Bowl.
But ad agency DNA just doesn’t have all three of those attributes. Many probably don’t have any of them (which doesn’t mean they aren’t creative or good at what they do). They might be prolific, but are they also agile? I don’t think so. They might be agile, but can they do it every day, i.e., be prolific? Maybe, but I doubt it. And they are rarely audience-focused simply because historically that has not been the job.
However, other marketers – specifically content marketers with newsroom backgrounds – just might be able execute this future strategy. They have been trained to be prolific, agile and audience-focused. Newsrooms are dynamic and somewhat odd places. They are often dysfunctional. Most right-thinking people would not want to work in a newsroom. That newsroom mentality does not work within a corporate environment – it moves too fast, it’s often too impolite and it is focused on different objectives than most standard businesses (that’s a big reason why so many news outlets are watching their businesses disappear).
At Scribewise, it is our intention to be that newsroom for brands – to be a solution that can be plugged in to the marketing mix without derailing corporate culture the way a newsroom is inclined to do.
The foundation of the HBR post is undeniably true–reaching an audience and convincing them to buy a product or service is tremendously different than it was just a few years ago. We are in the era of preference marketing, and the audience will not buy from you unless you’ve created a relationship and demonstrated why they should buy from you.
The Wharton professors writing at HBR say accomplishing that will require advertisers to “create an enormous amount of useful, appealing, and timely content. To get there, brands will have to leave behind organizations and thinking built solely around the campaign model, and instead adopt the defining characteristics of the real-time, data-driven newsroom.”
Despite the success of the Oreo Super Bowl tweet – which by the way was not even advertising, strictly speaking; no media time was purchased – it’s difficult to see ad agencies executing similar brilliance on an ongoing basis. This was an extraordinary performance because all hands were on deck because it was the Super Bowl. Is your ad agency going to move that quickly on a random Tuesday in April?
Of course not. But professionals who’ve been trained as journalists – who know that when the story happens you drop everything and jump into action – they just might.
And that’s the future.